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Taiwan marchers protest against Chen
By Xing Zhigang (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-03-13 05:30

Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Taipei yesterday under the banner of "Fighting for livelihood, saving Taiwan," denouncing their "president" Chen Shui-bian for fanning tensions with the mainland.

Cross-Straits ties hit a new low since February 27 when pro-"independence" Chen scrapped the island's policy-making "national unification council" and its 15-year-old guidelines on eventual unification with the Chinese mainland.

Beijing, which holds that both Taiwan and the mainland belong to one and the same China, called Chen's move "a dangerous step towards Taiwan 'independence'."

Led by Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), the marchers braved light rain and walked to the "presidential" palace in Taipei, waving banners reading "We love peace! We hate war!"

Local media reports said the column of demonstrators was as long as 6 kilometres. Organizers had said they planned to mobilize 100,000 people to take part in the protest.

Ma said the march was meant to warn Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration to avoid exploiting cross-Straits issues for political gain and spend more time improving the state of Taiwan's economy and the quality of its administration.

"There are very severe grievances from the grassroots about the government, their livelihood...," Ma said.

The island's opposition heavyweights, including People First Party Chairman James Soong, New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming and Taiwan's "parliamentary" speaker Wang Jin-pyng, joined the demonstration.

Demonstrators carried banners criticizing Chen's "independence"-leaning policies, and demanded he "terminate (his) corrupt regime."

Allegations of government corruption paid a large role in the stinging defeat sustained by the DPP in local elections in December.

"We don't need Taiwan 'independence.' We want to live, we want to survive," said a retired veteran surnamed Lee.

"Taiwan 'independence' is a dead end. It is (Chen's) own personal view, not the view of the majority of the people," Lee said.

Ma, seen as the opposition's best hope to win the "presidency" in 2008, blamed Chen for unnecessarily provoking Beijing, saying the government should focus on the economy rather than politics.

"The government has been reeling from one scandal after another and people are suffering, but our 'president' chooses to make 'independence' his main agenda," the KMT leader said.

"We must let our government hear the real voice of the people," said Ma, whose party opposes "independence" and favours closer ties with the mainland.

Businessman Chiang Chien-min agreed: "I am very dissatisfied. I am dissatisfied with the economy, the corruption cases and the incompetent government."

Taipei city councillor Wu Guo-dong told demonstrators that their action was necessary to save Taiwan from the threat of an armed confrontation with the mainland.

"We have to fight against Taiwan 'independence' which will bring us to the brink of war," he said.

Twelve representatives of different sectors including farmers, students, fishermen and government employees took turns to voice their resentment towards the government at the square outside the "presidential" office.

They said from a makeshift stage that their lives had worsened since Chen won power in the 2000 "presidential" polls. Chen was re-elected in a disputed election in 2004.

(China Daily 03/13/2006 page1)

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