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Taiwan: Massive Protest Held Against China's Anti-Secession Law

Hundreds of thousands of people chanting "Oppose War, Love Taiwan!" rallied in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, today, in what they called a celebration of democracy.

26 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The demonstrators, who came from all parts of the island, were protesting China's recent approval of an anti-secession law that legitimizes the use of force by Beijing if Taiwan declares formal independence.

The protesters chanted slogans and waved green flags as they marched toward the presidential office from 10 locations around the city, symbolizing the 10 clauses of the anti-secession law.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian attended the rally and led demonstrators in a round of patriotic songs, but he did not give a speech. His ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party, says it hopes today's protest will draw international attention to the new law and put pressure on China to scrap it.

Chen has stopped short of endorsing independence for the island, which has run its own affairs since 1949, despite Beijing's claim of sovereignty. But he recently was quoted as saying that only Taiwan's people could decide their own fate, not 3,000 Beijing-backed parliamentarians.

Rally organizers said 1 million people joined the show of "people power" against Beijing's military threat. Taipei police estimated the crowd at just over 240,000.

Many brought their children and pets to what they called a "democratic carnival." Scores of children bared bottoms plastered with anti-missile stickers, while a handful of protesters set fire to red Chinese flags.

The anti-secession bill approved by China's parliament on 14 March is a bid to deter 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 nonpeaceful measures against the democratically ruled island if it pushes for formal statehood.

Today's protest march in Taipei comes as the European Union is considering whether to lift its arms embargo against Beijing. France and Germany are pushing for a lifting of the embargo, while the United States says it could destabilize the region.

(Compiled from wire reports.)

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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