Taiwanese President Shot While Campaigning

  1. This caught my eye.

    It appears that Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian survived an assassination attempt. He's campaigning for re-election. His vice president was shot in the knee.

    Sad. . .


    Taiwanese President Shot While Campaigning

    Published: March 19, 2004

    AIPEI -- Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian survived an assassination attempt Friday while campaigning on the eve of a presidential election, escaping with a bullet wound to the stomach.

    Vice President Annette Lu was also wounded in the attack in the southern city of Tainan but was not badly hurt, officials said. The pair were rushed to hospital, but a hospital official said later that they had left to fly back to the capital.

    Officials said Saturday's election would go ahead as planned.

    Chen and Lu had been traveling in an open-top jeep through Tainan streets, waving to crowds, when unknown assailants shot at them at 1:45 p.m. (12:45 a.m. EST).

    Police said they believed two standard handguns had been used and at least two shots fired. They had yet to make any arrests.

    China had no immediate comment. Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be recovered, by force if necessary. Chen, who was not wearing a bullet-proof vest, was rushed to hospital in Tainan, his home town, where he received 14 stitches in a five-inch long, one-inch deep wound. Television reports said the 54-year-old president was able to walk in for treatment.

    Lu, 59, was hit in the right leg and had to be assisted but her condition was not serious, officials said.

    It was unclear if the attack in a country where such political violence is virtually unknown would affect the election outcome. Analysts said most voters had already made their choice based on policy and were unlikely to be swayed by emotion now.

    Chen's chief of staff, Chiou I-jen, told a news conference that the president had called for calm.

    Both the DPP and the opposition Nationalists called off campaigning after the shooting.

    Officials had voiced worries that hardcore supporters of Chen, leader of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), might cause violence at final evening election rallies.

    ``For the sake of social stability, we have suspended all campaign activities,'' said DPP campaign manager Su Chen-Chang. Chen had been due to address an evening rally in Taipei.

    Opposition candidate Lien Chan, who was believed to have a slight edge in the contest, also called off his campaign.

    ``Because of this special situation we have decided to suspend all our campaign activities this evening,'' Lien told a Taipei news conference.

    GO, GO, GO

    Outside the DPP headquarters in Taipei supporters waved green party flags and shouted Chen's popular nickname: ``A-Bian, A-Bian, go, go, go.''

    The Taiwan dollar fell 0.2 percent on initial reports of the shooting but quickly recovered. Dealers said the central bank had intervened in the market to contain the fall. The bank said it would intervene if it detected unusual currency movements.

    The election, the third to be held under universal suffrage, would go ahead as scheduled, officials said.

    ``According to the election law, the election will proceed unless one presidential candidate dies,'' a Central Election Commission official told Reuters.

    The Investigation Bureau said police were hunting two attackers amid suspicions two guns were fired.

    ``The shooters probably were in the crowd because the wound to the president was on an upward trajectory,'' an official said.

    ``The gunshot occurred just as firecrackers were exploded, so we don't even know how many shots were actually fired,'' the bureau official told Reuters.

    Wang Hsin-nan, a lawmaker from Chen's party who was traveling in the motorcade, told TVBS television that a bullet hit the vice president in the knee first, and then the president.

    It was not Chen's first brush with violence. His wife, Wu Shu-chen, was run over by a lorry in Tainan in 1985 and paralyzed from the waist down. She had gone to thank voters after Chen lost an election for the post of Tainan county chief.

    Chen aggressively advocates independence from China while Lien favors a conciliatory approach to the island's giant foe.

    Their close battle could be decided by just a few hundred thousand votes out of 16.5 million.

    Opinion polls are banned in the last 10 days of campaigning. In underground gambling, bookies had been offering even money on a Lien victory by a margin of 850,000 votes while on Chen they were offering odds of 1.15-1 for a win by any margin.

    ``Maybe this will narrow down the margin, but I doubt it will be enough to get him re-elected,'' said George Tsai, analyst at the Institute of International Relations in Taipei.

    Chen has called a controversial referendum on boosting the island's defenses, setting the vote for Saturday alongside the presidential poll. The step has enraged Beijing, which sees the move as a harbinger of steps toward independence.

    Beijing views the referendum as a dry run for a vote on Taiwan independence that it says could lead to war.