Taipei indy rally to challenge Beijing

China | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 18 Oct 2018

Taiwan independence campaigners will take to the streets on Saturday for what they hope will be a major rally in a rebuke to Beijing and a challenge to the island's already embattled government.

Organized by the Formosa Alliance, which is backed by two pro-independence former Taiwan presidents, Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, the rally will call for a public vote on whether the island should formally declare independence from China.

It is the first potentially large-scale protest calling for an outright independence vote since Taiwan first became a democracy more than 20 years ago.

Organizers say they aim to draw 100,000 people.

"Every Taiwanese should get to choose Taiwan's future. It should be a decision by the 23.57 million Taiwanese people, not by China or Xi Jinping," said Kuo Pei-horng, head of the alliance.

Beijing has warned it would respond with force if Taiwan tried an official split.

Chinese authorities have already said the Formosa Alliance should not go down what they called a "dangerous path."

But Kuo, 63, who was blacklisted by Taiwan's Kuomintang government in the 1980s for promoting independence, says it is worth the gamble.

"I think if [China's President] Xi were ready to invade Taiwan, his troops would have already come or he could have found any excuse to do it," Kuo said.

New Power Party chairman and lawmaker Huang Kuo-chang, who made his name as a leading activist during the anti-China Sunflower Movement rallies of 2014, said the public should join the rally to "say no to China's ambitions to annex Taiwan."

Beijing is already incensed by a referendum that will take place in November asking for the island to compete as "Taiwan" and not "Chinese Taipei" in the next Olympics and other international sports events.

Even though her Democratic Progressive Party is traditionally independence-leaning, President Tsai Ing-wen has said she wants to maintain the status quo with China.

A vote on independence would require an amendment to current laws, which bar referendums on changing the constitution or sovereign territory. Analysts agree Tsai would be unlikely to allow such an amendment.

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