Sun, Oct 26, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Kaohsiung gets behind referendum bid

PEOPLE POWERSome 200,000 people came out to support democratic reforms as the DPP's southern stronghold again proved its political worth

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Crowd members call for a referendum on a new constitution.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Some 200,000 people took to the streets of Kaohsiung yesterday to support President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) appeal for a new constitution through a national referendum, saying that it was time for Taiwan to adopt a new identity and become a real country.

Chen has repeatedly said that the new constitution would be completed before the end of 2006 and implemented by 2008, with its contents being decided by referendum.

The referendum march was organized by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), the Alliance for Legislating a Plebiscite Law (公投立法推動聯盟) and pro-independence organizations.

It attracted supporters from all over the country, with many foreigners also joining in the march to express support for Taiwan's democratic reform.

By noon, crowds from Taoyuan, Taipei and central Taiwan had gathered to wave flags in front of the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts.

"I hope my children can experience the democratic movement and learn the spirit of people power," said 40-something Kaohsiung resident Yang Yun-tsung (楊允村), who brought his six-year-old daughter and other family members to join in with the march.

The march demonstrated the strength of support southern Taiwan offers the democratic and independence movements.

DPP Legislator and head of the Alliance for Legislating a Plebiscite Law Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) said that the main purpose of the march was to urge Taiwanese people to create a Taiwanese way and prove Taiwanese people's determination to complete democratic reform.

"We are not trying to fight China to death, and we do not have to reflect on historical tragedies and shadows," Wang said. "We just want to urge the public to think about Taiwan's future together."

At the beginning of last night's rally, Chen presented an oversized mock constitution to signify what he said was the opening of a new chapter in the nation's democratic development.

During his speech, Chen stressed that the nation's ailments -- such disagreements over the system of government, citizens' rights and legislative structure -- can only be settled by amending the Constitution through a referendum: "The draft referendum bill recently proposed by the opposition KMT and PFP sets down too many limitations for citizens to exercise their right of direct democracy," Chen said.

Chen told the cheering crowd not to expect much from the opposition alliance, especially Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).

"They have been lying to you for the past few years, just like they mocked our efforts to push for the birth of the Constitution when we first introduced it," Chen said. "Now they're turning around and making the same pledge."

Whipping the night crowd into a frenzy, Chen ended the rally with repeated calls to support the DPP's campaign to push for the enactment of a referendum law and the drafting of a new Constitution.

One KMT member told listeners he backed Chen's push for democratic reform: "I am the borough chief of the Shuihsien borough in Tainan City," Shen Lien-che (沈廉哲) said. "My friend and I took the day off and drove to Kaohsiung. Although we're KMT members, we hope the DPP can continue to promote democracy and create a new constitution and avoid a return to the old ways."

Earlier in the day, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) delivered the opening speech. She said that the day signified the end of three old eras, including Japan ending its regime in Taiwan on the same day in 1945, the UN terminating Taiwan's delegacy in 1971 and the Chiang dynasty ending its influence in Taiwan with the death of Madame Chiang Kai-shek (蔣宋美齡).

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