- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2005

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Hundreds of thousands of people chanting “Oppose war, Love Taiwan” joined President Chen Shui-bian yesterday to protest China’s anti-secession law that sanctions the use of force against the island.

Mr. Chen’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party hopes the protest will draw international attention to the new law and put pressure on China to scrap it.

Organizers said 1 million people joined the show of people power against Beijing’s military threat, but Taipei police estimated the crowd at just more than 240,000.

“I am here to protest against a barbaric China, which looks down upon the Taiwanese people,” said businessman Fan Wen-yi, 70, adding he was not affiliated with any political party and had never participated in a protest before. “The anti-secession law, simply put, is a law that authorizes war.”

The protesters chanted slogans and waved green flags that read “democracy, peace, protect Taiwan” as they marched toward the presidential office from 10 locations around the capital, symbolizing the 10 clauses of the anti-secession law.

Many brought their children and pets to the “democratic carnival.” Scores of children bared bottoms plastered with anti-missile stickers, while a handful of angry protesters set fire to Chinese flags.

Mr. Chen and his family, surrounded by 500 security guards, joined the marchers. Holding two green inflated batons, Mr. Chen joined the crowd in singing songs in the Taiwanese dialect.

The rally dispersed peacefully after a giant red balloon in the shape of a sea urchin, symbolizing Chinese missile threats, was deflated.

The anti-secession bill approved by China’s parliament on March 14 is a bid to deter Mr. Chen from pushing for a formal split from China before the end of his term in 2008.

The law codified Beijing’s long-standing threat to attack Taiwan, authorizing the use of non-peaceful measures against the democratically ruled island if it pushes for formal statehood.

“Taiwan is in such a sad position. It’s like an international orphan. If we don’t stand up and fight, no one will fight for us,” said 23-year-old student Jonathan Lin. “We should not be afraid of China. If they invade, I am willing to fight to the last moment.”

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since the Chinese Nationalists fled there at the end of a civil war in 1949. The Nationalist Party, which favors a more conciliatory stance toward Beijing, shunned the protest.

“China has never ruled Taiwan, not even for one day, yet they treat us as part of their territory,” said Huang Ming-yu, who took his wife and 2-year-old daughter to join the rally after a nearly 10-hour bus ride from the southern county of Pingtung.

The United States has criticized the anti-secession law, calling its passage unfortunate and a potential setback to cross-strait relations. Washington has urged the archrivals to resume fence-mending talks, stalled since 1999.

China’s state media quoted Chinese academics as saying the march could raise tensions and sour ties.

“The secessionist forces plot to stir up public sentiments to embolden themselves. Such moves are doomed to meet failure,” Huang Jiashu, a specialist on Taiwan from the People’s University, said in an interview with China’s official Xinhua news agency.

An influential Taiwanese businessman who had supported Mr. Chen’s presidential bid in 2000, warned that Taiwan independence could lead to war.

“I believe Taiwan’s economic development can’t be separated from the mainland. Taiwan independence will only lead Taiwan to war and drag the people to disaster,” Hsu Wen-long, the founder of Taiwan’s Chi Mei group, said in a letter yesterday.

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