Rally held in Taipei to demand independence referendum

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TAIPEI, (CNA).- Demonstrators took to the streets in Taipei Saturday to protest increased threats from China to annex Taiwan, demanding a referendum on a formal declaration of independence.

Organized by the Formosa Alliance, the protesters urged the government to hold a referendum in favor of using the name Taiwan instead of Republic of China, which they said has led to a very common misunderstanding around the world that Taiwan is a part of China.

The alliance said the rally, staged in front of the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), drew more than 50,000 protesters, according to the organizers. The police declined to comment on their figure for the turnout.

"The Taiwanese public must step out to have their voices heard and decide for themselves, otherwise China will decide for us," said alliance spokesman Yang Tsung-li (楊宗澧).

The Formosa Alliance is a political coalition that was founded on April 7 this year. Notable members include former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

Over the past year, China has increased its military threats, isolating and suppressing Taiwan in the international arena and threatening to force annexation on Taiwan, Yang said.

To stop such bullying, Taiwan must declare independence, he said, accusing the DPP of turning its back on its promises to its supporters to use Taiwan as the name of the nation and continuing to use the Republic of China, as the Kuomintang used to.

Further, he said, the DPP even lays down restrictions in the current referendum laws, prohibiting its citizens from voting on the change of the nation's name and territory.

The existing Referendum Act does not allow questions on matters touching on Taiwan's Constitution.

Instead of supporting the independence movement, the DPP has also barred all of its party members, politicians and election candidates from participating in independence movement events and rallies organized by Formosa Alliance, Yang said.

He also blasted the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for prohibiting the alliance to hold its rally in front of the Presidential Office.

In fact, the DPP held a separate rally in Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan that same day, which was themed "protecting Taiwan from China's annexation" without mentioning the referendum issue.

For most protesters in Taipei, however, the two demonstrations did not seem to contradict each other.

Yen Ming-wei (顏銘緯), spokesman of the pro-independence Taiwan Radical Wings, said both rallies shared a strong anti-China stance, which boosts the momentum of building what he described as a "normalized Taiwan."

However, the 22-year-old, who led around 100 party members from southern Taiwan to join the rally in Taipei, said a name change referendum is an important step to free Taiwan from China's control.

Chen Te-yu (陳德裕), 70, shared Yen's view, saying that the referendum is an effective way to block China's bullying because it tells the world directly what the pro-independence Taiwanese want.

"We need to have a proper name so we can exercise the people's rights properly, otherwise we are just living in a country of illusion," he said.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)

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