TAIPEI: Tens of thousands of Taiwan independence campaigners took to the streets on Saturday for a major rally that is a rebuke to Beijing and a challenge to the island’s already embattled government.
The protest in central Taipei came as China increasingly pushes its claim to the self-ruling democratic island and President Tsai Ing-wen struggles to appease Beijing and independence factions.
It was the first large-scale protest calling for an outright independence vote since Taiwan first became a democracy more than 20 years ago. Organisers claimed a turnout of more than 100,000.
Demonstrators gathered outside the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters chanting “Want Referendum!” and “Oppose Annexation!” China still sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, despite the two sides being ruled separately since the end of a civil war on the mainland in 1949.
Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state, with its own currency, political and judicial systems, but has never declared formal independence from the mainland. Beijing has warned it would respond with force if Taiwan tried an official split.
Organised by new group Formosa Alliance, which is backed by two pro-independence former Taiwan presidents, Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, the rally called for a public vote on whether the island should formally declare independence from China.
“We want to tell China to stop bullying Taiwan,” Alliance leader Kuo Pei-horng, 63, told the crowd. “Taiwanese people want to be their own master,” he added.
Activist and lawmaker Huang Kuo-chang also spoke to protesters, calling for a new constitution.
“Taiwanese politicians should let Taiwanese people build a normal country through holding a referendum,” he said.__Dawn.com