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Taiwanese march in Taipei

Taiwanese march in Taipei

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by Peggy Carr

TAIPEI – Hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese took to the streets of Taipei City last Saturday to protest against an anti-secession law enacted by China on March 14.

The march was organised by the Taiwan Democratic Alliance for Peace, a coalition of over 500 non-governmental and civic organizations, and drew participants from all over the country, across party and ethnic lines.{{more}}

The protestors gathered at 10 separate points around the capital and marched under various themes to a central point at Ketagalan Boulevard for a massive rally of an estimated one million.

President Chen Shui-bian and his family joined the line that marched under the theme, “We Want Unity,” while Premier Frank Hsieh marched with a group of blind persons and seeing-eye dogs under the theme of “Anti-Intimidation.”

Every available tour bus was hired to bring protesters to the capital and hundreds of students, mostly from the central city of Taichung, resorted to chartering eight railway cars on a train operated by the Taiwan Railway Corporation.

“I’m marching because I value our democracy,” one of the students said.

“Even though I don’t agree with someone, I will defend their right to express their views. This is the true meaning of democracy,” he said, adding that this kind of perspective is not accommodated under China’s anti-secession law.

At one assembly point, an 88-year-old man pushed his 87-year-old wife in a wheelchair. “I am old, and so is my wife,” he said, “but we came all the way from Chiayi City (in the south) for the sake of our children and grandchildren.”

He said that Taiwan’s future should be decided by the people of Taiwan, not by the Chinese authorities.

“We want our descendants to live a better life than us and be their own masters, not servants of China,” the elderly man said.

A group of Pei-nan aborigines from the eastern Taitung County stood out in the crowd in their specially decorated traditional clothing.

“It took us eight hours to get here,” they said. “We began preparing for the journey last night and set off before dawn. We brought betel nuts to show our determination to defend our homeland.”

According to Pei-nan aborigine folklore, the betel nut has special powers that could be used to put a curse on an enemy.

“China has hundreds of missiles targeted at Taiwan,” said Weilang, leader of the aboriginal group. “That’s fine. We can throw the ‘powerful’ betel nuts at China.”

At the rally, legislators and civic leaders jointly read a prayer for “Peace, Democracy and the Protection of Taiwan.”

A million voices were then raised in song, singing such native favourites as, “My Precious Treasure,” “Friends,” “We Are All One Family” and, finally, the unofficial hymn of the civil rights movement in the United States, ” We Shall Overcome.”

The protest was Taiwan’s peaceful response to China’s enactment of a law that provides the legal basis for its People’s Liberation Army to attack Taiwan, if in Beijing’s estimation all avenues for peaceful reunification have been exhausted.