Sat, Feb 28, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The real 'Great Wall' is democracy

In observance of the 57th anniversary of the historic Feb. 28 Incident, the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally, organized by a civilian association and endorsed by the government, is scheduled to be held this afternoon.

At 2:28pm a human chain running between Hoping Island, off the northern tip of Keelung, and Oluanpi, in southern Pingtung County, will be formed as a democratic "Great Wall" to demonstrate the Taiwanese people's will for cross-strait peace and ethnic reconciliation. More than 1 million people are expected to participate in the largest demonstration yet in the nation's social movement.

Because the presidential election is only three weeks away, the timing of the rally will have a huge impact on the results of the campaign. Nevertheless, the broader implications of the event in terms of its contributing to the maturation of democracy should not be overlooked.

When Taiwanese people first earned the right to directly elect their president in 1996, the Chinese government launched missile tests in the Taiwan Strait with the aim of sabotaging the legitimacy of the election. Taiwan overcame China's military threat with strong determination, a brave heart and no fear.

In 2000, Taiwan's democratic consolidation was furthered by the nation's first-ever transition of power. After its five decades of authoritarian rule and "black gold" politics, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was forced to give up the presidency. A desire for change and reform are the main reasons for President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) victory.

Now, four years later, the Democratic Progressive Party has chosen the strategy of initiating a peace referendum as a mechanism for deepening Taiwan's democracy and as an attempt to establish a framework for peace and stability with the government in China.

The referendum issue has caused international concern because it plays into the concern that any referendum is an explicit action to pursue a de jure independence. The opposition here in Taiwan, without any legal grounds to object to the peace referendum, has encouraged people to boycott the referendum simply for electoral reasons.

The truth is that most of the international community and the opposition alliance here have failed to properly understand the pulse of the times in Taiwanese society.

Taiwan is probably the only Asian democracy to be founded with a purpose. The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every Taiwanese person's heart: "The people rule ... the people speak ... government by consent of the governed ... the future of the country should be decided by all Taiwanese through plebiscites."

All political parties and the leadership in this country should recognize the people's power and the people's will for a full-fledged democracy. The formation of a human chain on Feb. 28, 2004 is a gateway to peace and reconciliation.

After a decade of ambiguity on Taiwan's relationship with China, and in the face of Beijing's increasing missile threats and diplomatic saber-rattling, it is time for the 23 million people of Taiwan to speak up and ask for peaceful and equal treatment from the other side.

Moreover, because politicians have taken advantage of ethnic problems for political gain in the past couple of years, it is time for national reconciliation. Let there be no more ethnic problems. There is only a Taiwan problem. That is -- united we stand, divided we fall.

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