Taiwan’s President says he will not give in to growing pressure to resign before his term ends.
DAYS ahead of a mass protest to unseat him, Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has said that he is innocent of corruption in an alleged scandal over secret diplomatic funds.
He reiterated yesterday that he would not step down despite mounting calls for him to do so. Mr. Chen has been under fire for months over allegations that relatives and aides exploited tier ties to him for illegal financial gain.
One of the investigations that prosecutors are pursuing is the handling of secret diplomatic funds.
“None of the money went into personal pockets,” Mr. Chen said after he confirmed that prosecutors were investigating accusations that he had misused government money.
He said he was cooperating fully with investigators.
“We have completely explained the case to the investigators and handed them all the necessary documents,” he said at a press conference in the Pacific nation of Palau yesterday.
The Taiwanese leader also said that secret diplomatic funds had been in existence since 1963, and he had inherited them from the previous government when he took office in 2000.
Where official funding for diplomatic and other missions was inadequate, money was drawn from the special fund, he said.
Taiwan has been accused of waging a diplomatic war with China by doling out funds to small and impoverished countries.
Mr. Chen traveled to Palau last Sunday for the Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit. He was in Nauru yesterday for a day-long visit and is expected to return to Taiwan today after a brief stopover in the US territory of Guam.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, he again denied any wrongdoing by his wife. Madam Wu Shu-chen has been questioned for allegedly receiving and selling Sogo department store vouchers in exchange for lobbying favours.
Mr. Chen’s son-in-law was indicted in July for insider trading involving a local development company – a charge he dinies.
The scandals have sent Mr. Chen’s approval ratings plummeting to a low of 18 per cent. His critics are planning an indefinite sit-in protest starting on Saturday to demand his resignation.
Mr. Chen said yesterday he would respect the people’s right to protest, but urged opponents seeking to topple him to respect the island’s Constitution.
“Democracy is the rule of law, we should not destroy it,” he said.
In June, he survived an unprecedented recall motion in the opposition-dominated Parliament aimed at forcing him out two years early.
On whether he plans to stay on as President until the end of his second term in May 2008, he said yesterday: “Shih will not fall, neither will A-bian.”
He was referring to Mr. Shih Ming-teh, a former chairman of Mr. Chen’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who is leading the sit-in protest in front of the Presidential Office.
The DPP has rejected calls for his ouster, saying prosecutors investigating the scandals have not uncovered any evidence against him.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Mr. Ma Ying-jeou will issue an open letter to demand Mr. Chen’s resignation. It will be published in Taiwanese newspapers on Saturday to coincide with the demonstration.
In response to a question on whether the sit-in protest would succeed in removing him from office, a calm Mr. Chen quipped: “How would I know? I am not taking part in it.”
~《The Straits Times》 September 6, 2006.