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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 February, 2004, 17:14 GMT
Taiwan holds referendum rally
Lee Teng-hui (centre) takes part in the chain
Former President Lee Teng-hui showed support for his successor
Tens of thousands of people have showed their support for Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's proposed referendum on relations with China.

The crowds - among them former President Lee Teng-hui - formed a human chain in the south of the island.

They chanted their opposition to China's deployment of missiles which are pointed at Taiwan.

The planned referendum, which will take place in March, has provoked criticism both at home and abroad.

According to the organisers, more than 70,000 people in the southern county of Tainan took part in Sunday's event.

Hand in hand, they formed a human chain along a 60-kilometre highway (37 miles).

Rehearsing

The demonstrators shouted slogans calling for peace not war, and urging China to remove 500 missiles targeted against the island.

Shui-bian speaks at rally (1 February 2004)
President Chen says he will stand up to China
The event, which was also aimed at uniting Taiwan's different ethnic groups, took on a carnival air, with musicians and dancers performing on open stages.

The demonstration - dubbed "the hand-in-hand peace rally" - is seen as a rehearsal for a much bigger event in just a few weeks' time, when organisers hope to mobilise a million people to link hands across the length of the island.

It is intended to show support for President Chen and his planned referendum, the nation's first.

Voters will be asked if they think Taiwan should obtain advanced anti-missile weapons if China refuses to withdraw missiles aimed at it, and if Taipei should open talks with Beijing.




SEE ALSO:
China condemns Taiwan poll plans
17 Jan 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Taiwan vote to focus on missiles
16 Jan 04  |  Asia-Pacific
US drawn into Taiwan-China dance
10 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific
China PM warns Taiwan over vote
08 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Taiwan referendum bill sets stage
28 Nov 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Q&A: Taiwan's ties with China
27 Nov 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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