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Taiwanese Leaders Survive Assassination Attempt

BY Admin  March 19, 2004 at 1:15 PM EST

Chen was grazed in the abdomen and Vice President Annette Lu was hit in the right knee in the apparent assassination attempt. The pair were rushed to a hospital, but later flew back to the capital.

Neither injury was life threatening, said Chiou I-jen, secretary-general in the Presidential Office.

“The vice president first felt pain in her knee and she thought it was caused by firecrackers,” Chiou said. “Then the president felt some wetness on his stomach area, and then they realized something was wrong.”

Chen and Lu had been traveling in a red open-top jeep in the southern city of Tainan, waving to crowds of supporters, when unknown assailants shot at them in broad daylight.

Chen appeared on television hours later in a videotaped message, looking stiff and tired, according to an Associated Press account. The president underwent surgery to remove the bullet from his stomach but doctors at Chi Mei Hospital said the bullet didn’t penetrate deeply and did not damage any internal organs.

“There’s no problem with A-bian,” Chen said, referring to himself by his nickname, in the late-night address to the nation.

“There’s no problem with Taiwan’s safety. Please feel at ease,” Chen reassured viewers, according to the AP.

City police said they believed two handguns had been used and at least two shots fired. Police said they believed there were two assailants and offered a $90,000 reward for information leading to their capture.

“The bullets come from different directions. It could be that it’s not one person,” said Liu Shih-lin, deputy chief of the National Police.

Both the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the opposition Nationalists called off campaigning after the shooting.

Officials have indicated that Saturday’s election will go ahead as planned, including a hotly debated referendum that could prove a turning point in Taiwan’s tense relationship with China.

Chen called for a national referendum on spending more to boost the island’s defenses and placed it along side the presidential poll in Saturday’s vote. The ballot angered officials in Beijing, who sees the move as a step toward Taiwan declaring independence. China views the island as a rogue region that is part of the People’s Republic.

More than six hours after the shooting, China’s official Xinhua news agency carried a factual report on the incident but the government had no reaction.

The two sides split when the Communists took over the mainland in 1949, forcing Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek to flee to the island of Formosa. Beijing wants Taiwan to unify and has threatened to attack if Taiwan seeks a permanent split.

Chen has angered the Nationalist opposition and Beijing by advocating a separate identity for Taiwan. Saturday’s election could be decided by just a few hundred thousand votes out of 16.5 million.