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Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Taiwan defiant over Chinese threats
Former President Lee Teng-hui, right, smiles after delivering a speech at a political rally while Taiwan Solidarity Union chairman Huang Chu-wen looks on
Former President Lee Teng-Hui (r) spoke at the rally
Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian has said his country will not be intimidated by China, and has called for political unity on the island.

His comments come a week after he infuriated Beijing by backing the idea of a Taiwanese vote on formal independence.

Chen Shui-bian
President Chen angered China by supporting plans for a referendum
Addressing a political rally in Taipei together with his predecessor Lee Teng-hui, President Chen referred to China's anger but did not repeat comments made last weekend that a referendum was a "basic human right".

China, which has threatened to attack Taiwan if it declares independence, reacted furiously to that speech, accusing Mr Chen of leading the island to disaster.

Taiwan refers to itself as independent, but Beijing regards it as a renegade province and says it will eventually be reunified with China - by force if necessary.

Call for unity

In his address to the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union, President Chen urged for unity and calm in addressing Chinese anger.

"Facing China's military threat and its suppression of our space on the international stage, we must unite and... stop fighting among ourselves," the president said.

"If we're on the right road, we must not cease walking down it. We will not be scared".

His remarks received thunderous applause from the hundreds of TSU members in the audience, who chanted: "Go! Go! President Chen!"

But Mr Chen chose not to mention his controversial comments of last weekend, or refer to the question of sovereignty.

In a television broadcast on 3 August, the president said there was "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing viewed the remarks as an assertion of Taiwanese independence and issued a stream of military threats via its state-run media.

The BBC correspondent in Beijing, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says this latest speech is unlikely to placate China's Communist leaders.

In fact, President Chen's comments seem set to reinforce Beijing's belief that the Taiwanese president is intent on moving the island further towards full independence, our correspondent says.

Support for Chen

The Taiwanese president shared the platform at Sunday's rally with his predecessor, Lee Teng-hui, who reiterated his support for Mr Chen's stance.

"Such a definition of the relationship is what we must hold on to, or we might be absorbed and wiped out by China," Mr Lee said.

During his presidency, Mr Lee also incurred Beijing's wrath by making similar remarks about Taiwanese independence.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"Military action against Taiwan is growing more and more likely"
See also:

10 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
06 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
05 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
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