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2004-01-27 18:54:30

    Taipei, Jan. 27 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian said Tuesday the March 20 referendum will mark a step forward in Taiwan's democratic development. "In the past, Taiwan won worldwide acclaim with its economic achievements. This time, we'll win global respect with our democratic achievements. With the holding of our first-ever referendum to coincide with the March 20 presidential election, we'll turn a new page in Taiwan's history," Chen said at a Presidential Office Chinese Lunar New Year gathering.

    Chen said Taiwan ended its 38-year martial law rule in 1987, held its first-ever across-the-board legislative elections in 1992 and its first-ever direct presidential election in 1996, and completed its first-ever transition of power between different political parties in 2000. "And now in 2004, we'll set a new record in Chinese society again by holding a referendum to let this universal value and basic human right take root in Taiwan," Chen said.

    He encouraged all local voters to cast ballots to express their opinions on the two referendum questions -- whether Taiwan should strengthen its anti-missile defense system in the face of mainland China's missile threat, and whether the government should forge a peaceful interactive mechanism to negotiate with Beijing.

    During this year, Chen said, Taiwan will also fulfill its obligations as a member of the global village through various cooperative programs. "We'll make more efforts in the new year to contribute to world prosperity, progress and peace."

    Chen also outlined three work goals of "democratic reform, economic prosperity and faith in Taiwan" for the new year.

    Touching on economic prospects, Chen said the domestic economy has recovered from recession since the second half of last year. "Both traditional and high-tech industries set new records in their 2003 annual business turnover. Exports resumed double-digit growth and the property market, one of the most important indicators of domestic demand, has also regained momentum after years of recession," Chen said.

    Noting that all world-renowned economic research institutes have forecast fast global economic growth for 2004, Chen said Taiwan should take advantage of this trend to accelerate its industrial upgrading and economic globalization.

    Chen said his administration will speed up infrastructure construction, financial reform and market liberalization to encourage investment in Taiwan. "The government will also help local industries upgrade their production bases in Taiwan into research and development centers and headquarters of their global business operations as part of our efforts to sustain Taiwan's competitive edge in the world market, " Chen added.

    Vice President Annette Lu and many Presidential Office staff members, including Secretary-General to the President Chiou I-jen, attended the new year gathering. Tuesday marked the first work day after the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday.

(By Sofia Wu)


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