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Hundreds of Thousands Protest Taiwan's Disputed Presidential Election Results - 2004-03-27

Demonstrators jammed Taiwan's capital Saturday to protest the results of the disputed presidential election. And China criticized the United States for congratulating President Chen Shui-bian after he was declared the winner.

Hundreds-of-thousands of protesters loyal to the opposition coalition poured into the streets of Taipei Saturday to voice their rejection of last week's presidential election.

One day after Taiwan's Election Commission certified the razor-thin victory of President Chen Shui-bian, the protesters loudly pressed their demand for a recount of the vote.

Presidential challenger Lien Chan was the principle speaker.

Mr. Lien says he can accept losing the election, as long as proper procedures have been followed.

In addition to a recount, he is calling for a formal investigation into the assassination attempt on President Chen the day before the election. Many KMT supporters are alleging Mr. Chen and his supporters orchestrated the attack to attract last-minute sympathy votes.

For now, officials of Mr. Chen's Democratic Progressive Party are urging their supporters to stay away from protest sites, in the interest of public order. Although fears of violence at Saturday's rally were not realized, political analysts are predicting political instability in Taiwan for weeks to come.

The United States broke its silence Friday after Mr. Chen was certified the winner. While acknowledging pending challenges to the results, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan congratulated Mr. Chen on his victory.

Beijing's reaction to that statement came Saturday morning. The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling the U.S. congratulations an "incorrect act," which undermines the longstanding "one-China" policy.

Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province, and has threatened the use of force, if the island attempts a formal declaration of independence.

The mainland Chinese government has been openly hostile to President Chen, branding him as an unreliable negotiating partner. It views Mr. Chen's introduction of a referendum in last week's voting as a potential stepping stone toward independence.

Behind the scenes, officials of the two parties are attempting to reach agreement on the structure of a recount. Until they do, analysts predict that political paralysis will be the ruling force in Taiwan.