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Taiwan's President Survives Apparent Assassination Attempt - 2004-03-19


Taiwan's president has survived an apparent assassination attempt, one day before the island's presidential election. The shooting incident is likely to have a big impact on a very close race.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian was riding in an open jeep through the southern city of Tainan, in a campaign parade for his re-election, when a bullet pierced the windshield and entered his body.

Mr. Chen underwent surgery for a gunshot wound to his stomach, but just hours later Friday evening, he returned to the capital Taipei.

Vice President Annette Lu, who had been standing next to him in the same vehicle, was also slightly injured, but is now said to be well.

Mr. Chen's opponent, Lien Chan, expressed dismay at the incident, and followed the Chen campaign in canceling all events before Saturday's vote.

"We were very shocked," said Lin Chan. "We wish President Chen and Vice President Lu will recover soon. We strongly condemn any form of violence."

In a statement issued before his release from the hospital, President Chen urged the country not to worry for him, and asked his supporters to remain calm.

The two candidates are engaged in an extremely close race, with the Lien campaign saying Friday that only one percentage point separated the two men.

Given the slim margin, National Taiwan University political science professor Philip Yang says the shooting incident could play a big role in deciding the election.

"[The] sympathy vote will definitely be a major factor in this election because of this incident," he said.

An investigation into the shooting is underway. While authorities have not announced any suspects, the Chen campaign says it recently received threats.

While the Chen side canceled formal campaigning events following the incident, the president's supporters crowded around the campaign headquarters in Taipei.

The crowd voiced a wide variety of opinions about who was responsible for the shooting, with some suspecting a pro-Lien fanatic, while others blamed China, which has long been critical of the Taiwanese president.

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