LEADERS of Taiwan's main opposition party called an end to a huge all-night protest yesterday after the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Party indicated it might be willing to compromise on political reforms. The last-minute deal ended a tense night in which marchers in a crowd of 15,000 to 20,000 opposition supporters clashed sporadically with riot police blocking their march to the National Assembly meeting hall in the outskirts of Taipei.
The protest march followed a week of fistfights in the National Assembly between members of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang. DPP officials charge the KMT with trying to amend Taiwan's constitution while the KMT retained control of the National Assembly, instead of waiting until after elections later this year. DPP members walked out of the National Assembly and local assemblies last week to protest the KMT moves.
Opposition members contacted by telephone said Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui made a televised appeal to opposition party members before the march. But DPP members say the broadcast also included images of riot police practicing antiprotest maneuvers.
Minor clashes occurred as the march was halted by barbed-wire barracades. Some protesters threw stones and tin cans at police but were stopped by DPP members maintaining order at the march. Several people on both sides were slightly injured in the melee, state radio said.