TAIPEI: The deep political split in Taiwan's society has become a crisis, President Chen Shui-bian said yesterday, two days after hundreds of activists protesting his narrow re-election battled police here.
Chen pledged to try to repair the division as he spoke to a group of university students who were highly critical of his re-election campaign. The president narrowly won the March 20 vote, which has been challenged by opposition candidate Lien Chan.
One student accused Chen of campaigning on a divisive platform insinuating that the opposition was in cahoots with rival China.
You said you were campaigning for democracy, but what you did was smear Taiwan's democracy,'' said the student. You suppressed your opponents and said they didn't love Taiwan.''
Chen often assured voters that he wouldn't cave in to the communist giant, and he questioned Lien's willingness to stand up to Beijing.
The president assured the students that he and his party would reflect on the campaign and consider how to close the widening gap between people.
The divisions became violent last Saturday when about a 1,000 people stuck around after an anti-government rally here and battled riot police with pipes, rocks and bottles. Hundreds of police eventually cleared away the demonstrators.
Meanwhile, authorities had moved to punish violent protestors involved in the worst clashes, officials said yesterday.
Police said they had arrested 21 people involved in Saturday's confrontations which saw demonstrators attack a police building and target officers with gas bombs and slingshots, chanting anti-Chen slogans.
Lee Ying-yuan, deputy secretary general to Chen's Democratic Progressive Party, (DPP), filed a lawsuit against the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) after KMT chief secretary Lin Feng-cheng accused the DPP of planning the clashes.
In his first public response on the violence, President Chen assured his supporters at the southern city of Tainan late on Sunday that the government would stand tough in response to the incident.
We have laws. Those who violate the law and make trouble will be severely punished regardless of their status, Chen said.
A recount for Taiwan's disputed presidential election could begin by mid May, a ruling party lawyer said yesterday, a move that could help calm political feuding that has sparked massive protests and violence.
The president's lawyer, Wellington Koo, told reporters: We expect it to begin by mid May. ''
But Koo doubted that the retally would be completed before Chen's scheduled inauguration ceremony on May 20. Agencies
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