Son of former vice president shot at campaign rally
The son of former Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan was shot in the face while speaking Friday at a campaign rally in suburban Taipei, but the island’s leader says his life is not in danger.
AP - The son of former Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan was shot in the face while speaking Friday at a campaign rally in suburban Taipei, but the island’s leader says his life is not in danger.
Police said Lien Sheng-wen, 40, did not appear to be the target of the attack, and at least one other person was hit and possibly killed.
Lien Chan and his son are both members of the ruling Nationalist Party, which will meet the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party in elections Saturday that could have a significant impact on government policy of improving relations with China.
Taiwanese will elect mayors and local officials in five large cities around the island. Lien Sheng-wen was speaking on behalf of a candidate for city councilor in Xinbei, a ring of suburbs around the capital.
Taiwanese TV stations reported that police have a suspect in custody. They identified him as “horse face,” a sobriquet that would likely indicate his membership in one of Taiwan’s criminal gangs.
After the attack, President Ma Ying-jeou rushed to Taipei’s National Taiwan University Hospital, where Lien was being treated.
“Taiwan is a democracy,” Ma told reporters there, after confirming that Lien’s life was not in danger. “We will not tolerate such violence.”
Hospital spokeswoman Tan Ching-ting said Lien was conscious when he was brought to the facility just before 9 p.m. (8 a.m. EST, 1300 GMT).
“His wounds are in his left part of his face and his right temple,” she said. “He is now in surgery.”
Acts of violence are unusual in election campaigns in Taiwan, which began a gradual transition from one-party dictatorship to fully functioning democracy in the late 1980s.
However, Ma’s predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, was shot and lightly wounded on the eve of the presidential election in 2004, in an attack that many in the Nationalist Party charged was an attempt by Chen to garner sympathy in the waning hours of the campaign.
Violence carried out by Taiwan’s gangs is also limited, though the gangs themselves exercise considerable political influence, particularly on Taiwanese county governments.
A police official from Yung Ho, the area of Xinbei where the incident occurred, said the assailant had 48 bullets in his possession when he was taken into custody. He said that man, surnamed Lin, ran onto the stage at the elementary school where Lien was speaking and opened fire, wounding him in the face, and hitting another man.
The second man “showed no signs of life when we sent him to the hospital,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.
Taiwan’s National Policy Agency chief Wang Cho-chiun said Lin was targeting the city councilor candidate rather than Lien.
“Lin said that he did not know Lien personally,” Wang said. “He said he was aiming at the councilor candidate and tried to spoil the event.”
Saturday’s elections pit hopefuls from Ma’s Nationalists against rivals from the pro-independence DPP in three newly constructed constituencies as well as existing voting areas in Taipei and its suburbs.
While the perennially hot-button issue of relations with China has not figured prominently in the campaigns, Saturday’s winning party is likely to carry momentum into the presidential elections in March 2012, which will almost certainly feature Ma against a still unnamed DPP candidate.
Ma, 60, favors expanding Taiwan’s already robust commercial relations with the mainland, and if re-elected, could begin political talks with Beijing.
In contrast, the DPP wants to slow the pace of economic convergence across the 100-mile- (160-kilometer-) wide Taiwan Strait and would almost certainly close the door on political dialogue with the mainland, from which Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949.
That might worry the United States, which has applauded Ma’s success in helping to ease tensions in one of Asia’s traditional flashpoints.