Sat, Jan 31, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chen says rally a chance for ethnic reconciliation

HAND IN HAND Describing five ethnic groups in Taiwan as the five fingers on a hand, the president urged people to join the million-person rally to protest China's missiles

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian, second from right, yesterday encourages the people of Taiwan to join a hand-in-hand rally at a news conference.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday encouraged Taiwanese people of all ethnic backgrounds to join hands in a 1-million-person chain at a rally on Feb. 28 as an expression of Taiwan's opposition to the missile threat posed by China.

Speaking at the Democratic Progressive Party's national campaign headquarters, Chen said the purpose of holding such an event was to invite the people of Taiwan to protect the cross-strait status quo.

"The homeland which the Taiwanese people have strived hard to build has been overshadowed by China's military threat, which is increasing day by day. We can't pretend we are not aware of it, nor can we take it as a matter of course. If we keep being silent, we will be regarded as approving" of this threat, he said.

"Therefore, each Taiwanese has a right to tell the world and the Beijing authorities that we want peace and not war."

While reiterating his intention to hold the referendum, Chen said the event also aims to promote ethnic unity in this joint effort to protect Taiwan.

"Through this activity, everyone holds hands together -- as if each of our five fingers represents the ethnic groups of Hakka, Chinese mainlanders, Minnan, Aboriginals and the foreign expatriates. All people will join together to protect Taiwan," Chen said.

He said that through decades of social and cultural integration of various ethnic forces in Taiwan, the nation had developed a unique identity, one that recognizes multicultural assimilation.

Commenting on the sensitive ethnic and identity issues that have long been regarded as a source of division, Chen said, "Taiwan doesn't have an ethnic issue, all it has is an issue of national identity that certain politicians refuse to recognize."

He said some politicians denied honoring such an identity and have distorted the identity issue into an ethnic one, trying to inflame ethnic confrontation.

"This merely shows their equivocal attitudes on national identity, undermining not only the social harmony of Taiwan, but also bringing unpredictable dangers to Taiwan when China threatens to swallow the country," Chen said.

"Taiwan's sovereignty and international position need to be defended by all the people of Taiwan, especially when China increases its oppression of us," the president said.

The rally's organizers are hoping to arrange for 1 million people to hold hands along the north-south provincial highway from Keelung County to Pingtung County, a distance of 500km.

Also called the "228 Hand-in-Hand Rally," the event will seek to break the world record for the longest human chain since the Baltic Chain in 1989, when the people of the three Baltic countries, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, formed a human chain to express their opposition to interference by the Russian Army.

A rehearsal is planned for tomorrow in Tainan County, in which 70,000 people will form a chain 63km long, Tainan County Commissioner Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智) said yesterday.

"The success of the rehearsal will help boost people's confidence and motivate more people from other cities and counties to join the event," Su said.

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