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Taipei march protests Chen's political ploy
Updated: 2006-03-12 15:09

TAIPEI - Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched in the streets of Taipei on Sunday to protest Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian's termination of a council responsible for unification with the mainland.

On February 27, Chen announced that the 15-year-old "National Unification Council" would cease to function, provoking angry condemnation from Beijing and strong criticism from Taiwan's Nationalist Party and its legislative allies.

Taipei march protests Chen's political ploy
Supporters of Taiwan's main opposition Nationalist Party shout slogans during a protest march in Taipei March 12, 2006. Thousands of people marched through Taipei on Sunday to denounce "president" Chen Shui-bian, accusing him of fanning tensions with the mainland. [Reuters] 
The opposition, which supports eventual unification, says that instead of provoking the mainland, Chen should work to improve the island's economy, which has struggled to make the transformation from manufacturing powerhouse to service provider.

"What the majority of people in Taiwan want, is that the struggle about unification and independence stops, and that the government concentrates all its efforts on economic issues," said Nationalist spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen.
"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.

Sunday's march took place under a leaden gray sky and chilly temperatures.

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

As the march got underway, Taipei city councilor Wu Guo-dong told demonstrators that their action was necessary to save Taiwan from disaster.

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

Taipei march protests Chen's political ploy
Thousands of supporters of Taiwan's main opposition Nationalist Party gather in front of the "presidential office" during a protest march in Taipei March 12, 2006. Thousands of people marched through Taipei on Sunday to denounce "president" Chen Shui-bian, accusing him of fanning tensions with the mainland. [Reuters]
Taipei housewife Yang Mei-li said she did not support unification with the mainland, but believed that Chen's policies were undermining Taiwanese economic growth.

"All we want is to raise Taiwan's living standards so we can have a better life," she said. "But Chen is coming up with all kinds of political ploys."

Sunday's march was to end in front of the "presidential office" building, where Nationalist leader and prospective 2008 presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou was to address the crowd.

"The government has one scandal after another and people are suffering, but our president chooses to make unification versus 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."

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