03/26/2005, 00.00
TAIWAN
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One million march in Taipei against mainland's anti-secession law

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than one million people were expected in the streets of Taiwan's capital today to protest against the anti-secession law mainland China's National People's Congress adopted on March 14. The law grants the Chinese government the right to use non-peaceful measures against anyone threatening China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

However, the law has come in for international criticism as a dangerous escalation in the military confrontation along the Taiwan Strait. The law has also drawn the ire of Taiwan's pro-independence forces.

Wu Chaohsiung, a Taipei carpenter who took part in the march, said that "China is a violent nation. We don't' want to have anything to do with them. We must insist on our right to determine our future alone".

Lawmaker Bi-Khim Hsiao is well aware that "the march won't change the law", but said: "We want to focus international attention on the situation to force China to deal with us in a peaceful manner".

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian and members of his administration said they would join the march but not in their official capacities to avoid provoking China too much.

Demonstrators arrived from across the entire island—whose population is 23 million—on hundreds of buses.

Organisers set up ten rallying points from which participants would set out on ten different routes, each one representing one of the ten articles of the anti-secession law, each group protesting against one article, all groups demonstrating in favour of peace and expressing the intention of not surrendering.

The march was expected to last four hours with marchers gathering in front of the presidential palace.

A police force of 30,000—almost half of the island's total—has been mobilised to maintain law and order and protect government leaders taking part in the rally.

President Chen Shui-bian's presence was confirmed only on Friday, March 25 by way of a press release from the Presidential Office. Mr Chen will "march as an ordinary citizen of Taiwan" the statement said; he would so bring his whole family but would not speak.

On Thursday, March24, an editorial appeared in the Beijing daily China Daily urging Chen to take a low profile to avoid stirring pro-independence sentiments.

In addition to the President, Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien and Premier Frank Hsieh Chang-ting also joined the rally.

Opposition leaders, including People First Party chairman James Soong Chu-yu and KMT chairman Lien Chan, did not attend.

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