Saturday, March 26, 2005

Taiwanese Hold Major Protest Against China

Associated Press - In one of the largest demonstrations in Taiwan's history, about a million people marched through the capital on Saturday to protest a new Chinese law that authorizes an attack on the island if it moves toward formal independence.

"Taiwan is only a small island, so we must speak out really loud to make the world hear that we are a democracy facing an evil giant," said Vivian Wang, a 38-year-old restaurant worker who traveled by bus from the southern city of Kaohsiung about 190 miles away.

Hundreds of thousands assembled at 10 different areas in Taipei, with each route representing one of the articles of the anti-secession law. The marchers converged on the wide boulevard in front of the Presidential Office building.

Taiwan has been able to enjoy de facto independence for more than 50 years, largely because the United States has warned it might defend the island if China attacks. America is also the only major nation that sells advanced weapons to newly democratic Taiwan, about the size of Maryland and Delaware combined.

"What do we want from China? Peace," lawmaker Bikhim Hsiao led the crowd in chanting.

Thousands of tour buses brought protesters to Taipei from all over the island. Police estimated the crowd at about a million. The rally was organized by private groups, but leaders of President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party played a high-profile role in the organization.

A five-story-high white balloon representing peace, and an equally tall model of a red sea urchin, its needles symbolizing the missiles China is pointing at Taiwan, were erected at the protest site. The sea urchin model was deflated at the end of the rally, while protesters climbed over it, trying to tear it apart.

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