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REFERENDUM SIGNIFIES TAIWAN'S COMMITMENT TO PURSUING PEACE: PRESIDENT

2004-02-13 19:03:33

    Hsinchu, Taiwan, Feb. 13 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian urged eligible voters Friday to cast ballots in the nation's first-ever referendum to be held in conjunction with the March 20 presidential election, to demonstrate Taiwan's commitment to pursuing peace.

    Chen made the appeal during an inspection tour of the northern county of Hsinchu, a major Hakka constituency. "I beg all voters to support the upcoming referendum because it offers a precious opportunity for them to express to the world and mainland China their desire for peace, " Chen said. "And no matter which candidate you vote for, you should not miss the referendum."

    Noting that Taiwan's road to democracy has been bumpy and winding, Chen said people should support the upcoming referendum to bring Taiwan's democratic development to a climax.

    Even though Taiwan underwent a peaceful transition of power between different political parties in 2000, Chen said, it has so far never held a national referendum to manifest the people's sovereignty. "The referendum will allow the people to express their opinions on major national policy issues, " Chen said, adding that the two questions to be put forth for the referendum are critical to safeguarding cross-Taiwan Strait peace and Taiwan's present status quo. "We should use the referendum to say 'no' to Beijing's missile threat and reaffirm our commitment to pursuing peace and avoiding war. And let's use the referendum to write a new chapter for our national history," Chen added.

    The two questions to be asked in the March 20 referendum are: -- "The people of Taiwan demand that the Taiwan Strait issue be resolved through peaceful means. Should mainland China refuse to withdraw the missiles it has targeted at Taiwan and openly renounce the use of force against us, do you agree that the government should acquire more advanced anti-missile weapons to strengthen Taiwan's self-defense capabilities?" -- "Do you agree that our government should engage in negotiation with mainland China on the establishment of a peace and a stability framework for cross-strait interaction in order to build consensus and for the welfare of the peoples of both sides."

(By Sofia Wu)

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