Mon, Dec 08, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Chen details issues to be put to vote

MISSILE THREAT The president said that neither the US nor China could oppose referendums aimed at improving cross-strait stability and deterring aggression

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian responds to a welcome from 30,000 Hakka people gathered in front of the Yimin Temple in Hsinchu County yesterday for a rally in support of his presidential re-election bid.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday the topics for the March 20 "defensive referendum" would be demanding that China dismantle its missiles aimed at Taiwan and that it publicly renounce the use of force against Taiwan.

Speaking to an estimated 100,000 DPP supporters in Taichung last night, Chen said the 496 missiles across the Strait threaten not only Taiwan but also regional stability.

"I would like to propose a defensive referendum that neither China nor the US could oppose: that we want China to dismantle missiles aimed at Taiwan and publicly renounce the use of force against Taiwan," Chen said.

Earlier in the day, Chen addressed over 30,000 Hakka people in front of the Yimin Temple, a Hakka religious center, in Hsinpu township, Hsinchu County.

Chen related the spirits of the Hakka militia "Yimin," who sacrificed their lives in the 18th century to protect their homeland, to the need for a "defensive" or "preventative" referendum in order to ensure the security of Taiwan in the light of the military threat from China.

"The Hakka spirits are the Yimin spirits, which are best described as spirits to protect the homeland, and that's what the spirit of the defensive referendum is about," Chen said.

Chen said the purpose of the referendum was to maintain cross-strait peace and Taiwan's democracy and to oppose any possibility of war.

"The defensive referendum to be held next March 20 is anti-missile and anti-war," Chen said.

Speaking at the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) first large-scale campaign rally aimed at Hakka voters, Chen said that Taiwan did not have ethnic conflicts, only the issue of identity -- whether the people who live here identify with Taiwan or not, and whether the people recognize the fact that Taiwan is not part of China.

Chen was speaking in response to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) recent proposal to hold a referendum on ethnic reconciliation to promote ethnic harmony.

Pointing out the erosion of Hakka cultural heritage, Chen said the most critical challenge for Hakka culture was that Hakka people were not willing to admit their ethnic origins -- a phenomenon manifested in many Hakka's inability to speak their own language.

According to statistics from the Council for Hakka Affairs, less than 10 percent of Hakka teenagers can speak fluent Hakka.

To prevent Hakka culture from being lost, Chen said in addition to the establishment of the Council for Hakka Affairs, set up under Chen's administration three years ago, and several Hakka cultural research institutions, his ultimate goal is to found a Yimin University specially designated for the promotion of Hakka culture.

More than 30,000 Hakka people attended the rally yesterday.

The Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli areas, in which a large number of Taiwan's 4 million Hakka reside and which have long been strongholds of pan-blue support, are seen as key to Chen's re-election chances.

Hakka heavyweight Fan Cheng-tsung (范振宗), a former head of the Cabinet's Council of Agriculture and Hsinchu County Commissioner, who recently agreed to head the DPP's campaign team in Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli, yesterday said the DPP expected to boost its support among Hakka from 24 percent in the 2000 presidential election to 40 percent in next year's poll.

Fan said Chen has been keenly working on making connections in the Hakka community since he became president, proving his determination to promote Hakka affairs.

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