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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314269 Taiwan Chen (L)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/19/2004

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=TAIWAN CHEN (L)

NUMBER=2-314269

BYLINE=MICHAEL KITCHEN

DATELINE=TAIPEI

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: Taiwan's president is said to be in stable condition after being shot the day before the island's presidential election. V-O-A's Michael Kitchen reports from Taipei, that Taiwan's government says voting will take place as scheduled Saturday, despite the assassination attempt.

TEXT: President Chen Shui-bian was hit by a bullet while riding in an open-topped jeep on a campaign parade through the southern city of Tainan.

Senior aides say he was conscious and the wound is not life threatening.

Vice President Annette Lu was standing next to with the president when the attack occurred, and also was injured slightly.

There has been no immediate word on who might have been responsible for the shooting.

Presidential office spokesman Chiou I-jen (Qiu Yiren) says Taiwan's national security agency has already begun an investigation into the incident.

/// CHIOU ACT IN MANDARIN AND FADE ///

Mr. Chiou says President Chen is urging the country to remain calm and not to worry on his behalf.

Mr. Chen's supporters have nonetheless surrounded both the Tainan hospital and the president's campaign headquarters in Taipei, in a show of support.

Mr. Chen's rival, Lien Chan, says he is deeply concerned about the incident and has sent a top official from his Kuomintang party to Tainan to express his condolences.

The attack happened as Mr. Chen's motorcade drove down a street lined with flag-waving supporters. Hundreds of firecrackers were going off - a tradition in Taiwan campaigns - when Mr. Chen was shot. That caused confusion for more than an hour, as some witnesses said the president and vice president had been injured by fireworks.

Taiwanese law prohibits public-opinion polls in the 10 days before the election, but observers say the race between President Chen and Mr. Lien is extremely close.

Both men had a tight schedule filled with campaign rallies across Taiwan, but all candidates temporarily halted campaign activity after the shooting.

Chen administration officials, however, say the election will not be postponed because of the attack.

/// REST OPT ///

Voters also are being asked to decide on a referendum regarding Taiwan's relationship with China, and whether Taipei should boost defense spending if Beijing continues to aim missiles at the island.

The referendum has been particularly divisive. Mr. Chen has backed the referendum as part of his strategy of focusing on Taiwan's national identity.

But Mr. Lien has said the referendum is unnecessarily provocative to mainland China, which considers self-governed Taiwan part of its territory. Beijing officials have said they consider the referendum a step toward declaring independence. China has threatened to attack Taiwan if it moves toward formal independence. (SIGNED)

NEB/HK/MK/KPD/RAE



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