On Friday, March 19th, 2004 (local time), Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian and his Vice President, Annette Lu, were shot while leading a motorcade through Tainan City. This occured the day before the scheduled election between the incumbent Chen and his challenger, Lien Chan of the KMT. Chen and Lu were riding in an open vehicle, through a street crowded with supporters. Someone fired a single bullet, which hit both of them. They were released from a nearby hospital, and returned to Taipei to recuperate.
Those are the facts. The speculation is running wild. It would take a long time to explain the full details of Taiwanese politics, but the basic facts are that Chen's main supporters are ethnically Taiwanese people, many of whom live in the South of the island, especially in Tainan, his hometown. The shooting also took place slightly before an election that he was generally believed to be trailing in.
The question then, is who would want to shoot Chen? There are four possible suspects, none very likely.
- The People's Republic of China: aka The Commies. Although Chen has publicly stated that he will not declare Taiwan indepedent, he is still widely known as a supporter of independence. This makes him very unliked by the Beijing government who still believe in a One China Policy. While the Communists do have some motive for wanting Chen out of the way, it seems unlikely that they would stoop to trying to have him killed, especially when there is a possibility they would get caught.
- The KMT: Although they lost a civil war to the Communists, on one thing they agree on one thing with them, that there can be only one China. The KMT are also ethnically Chinese, and not ethnically Taiwanese, so even in this usually sane culture, there is an element of ethnic hatred. While I doubt the mainstream of the KMT would plot such an attempt (especially since they are predicted to win the election), they could have a nutjob supporter who gunned for the President and Vice-President out of ethnic hatred.
- Chen Shui-bian: Nothing like an assasionation attempt to gain some last minute popularity. The election is close enough that a sympathy vote could possibly swing things. Despite watching him for some months now, I don't really know if Chen, or anyone in his camp, is crazy enough (or dumb enough) to try to pull something like this. It was a very light wounding, but someone would have to be very dumb, or very brave, to trust someone to shoot them and have the damage stay so light.
- The Lone Gunman: The shooting took place probably around a kilometer from my old home, and I never felt any sense of danger while there, Taiwan, like anywhere else, has its share of crazy people. Despite the fact that guns are illegal, they are not impossible to obtain. In a city of a million people, there is going to be one person able to get a gun and shoot someone famous "just because".
Right now, none of these seem very possible. Probably many other developments will develop very quickly, leading to more weird turns in Taiwanese politics than could be imagined. Hopefully the island will stay sane and peaceful despite of them.