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Saturday, 10 August, 2002, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Taiwan rallies back Chen comments
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian in a video address
The Taiwanese leader's remarks angered China

Demonstrations have been taking place in Taipei to show support for President Chen Shui-bian's recent comments that Taiwan and China are separate countries.

With China expressing fury at his words and his backing of a referendum on formal independence, the president and his government later toned down his comments.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei filled with demonstrators from all walks of life, all supporting their president.

The singing and drumming entertained the crowd, but the underlying message from the leaders of various pro-independence groups was serious: all Taiwanese should seriously consider referendum legislation and support President Chen to stand firm and stick with his original comments.

'Renegade province'

China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has repeatedly threatened to use force if the island moves towards independence.

This week it warned Mr Chen's advocacy of independence would lead Taiwan to disaster, but organisers of the demonstration said if Beijing continued with its aim of annexing Taiwan, the people would fight for their motherland to the last person.

Map showing Taiwan and eastern China
They said they did not want their president and government to back away from Mr Chen's comments - which has already happened - and wanted to defend Mr Chen from any kind of pressure.

Most Taiwanese prefer a continuation of the status quo and fear the consequences of any declaration of independence.

Although the demonstration was a show of support for independence in a week when Mr Chen has had to fend off a lot of flak for his controversial comments, it did not attract as many people as the organisers had hoped for.

But it may have cheered up the government at a time when it seems it still has to dance to China's tune.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Independence
Should Taiwan decide its own future?
See also:

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06 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
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05 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
05 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
05 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
25 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
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