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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 February, 2004, 13:02 GMT
Human chain protest in Taiwan
Cheering crowds at Miaoli, northern Taiwan, where President Chen spoke
It was the biggest protest the island has seen
More than a million people have linked hands the length of Taiwan in a demonstration against China.

The 500km human chain, organised by supporters of President Chen Shui-bian, was in protest at China's deployment of missiles against Taiwan.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province which should be reunited with the mainland - by force if necessary.

Analysts say the protest, three weeks before a presidential poll, will boost support for Mr Chen's re-election.

His sole challenger, Lien Chan, has organised rival events - including a marathon and concerts - to try to wrest back some of the media attention.

Turning point

After prayers and the release of a flock of white doves, protesters raised joined hands.

Crowds gathered along the route of the human chain shouted out their opposition to the nearly 500 Chinese missiles which are targetted at Taiwan, and called for peace and self-determination.

We formed a great wall of democracy and a great wall of peace... We showed the world our determination to recognise Taiwan and protect Taiwan
President Chen Shui-bian
speech to supporters
The event took place on Taiwan's Peace Memorial Day.

It commemorates the deaths of thousands of Taiwanese killed by Chinese Nationalist Party troops who violently put down an island-wide rebellion in 1947.

The BBC's Caroline Gluck in Taipei says the rally could be a turning point in the campaign for the election on 20 March.

President Chen, who is seeking a second four-year term in office, has called a referendum on the same day, asking voters if they favour strengthening the island's defences in the face of the Chinese missile threat.

The referendum issue has angered China, which refuses to deal with Mr Chen.

Mr Chen, of the Democratic Progressive Party, has said he wanted to shake hands on a peace deal with Chinese President Hu Jintao within four years.

Opinion polls suggest Mr Chen and Mr Lien are more or less neck and neck.

The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"A million people joined together hand in hand"

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