Sun, Feb 29, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Two million rally for peace

CLEAR MESSAGE The organizers of the 228 Hand-in-Hand rally said that the event was a stunning success, and highlighted the nation's desire for peace

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN MIAOLI

Nearly 10,000 Taiwanese gather on the old Hsilo Bridge during the island-wide human chain yesterday in Yunlin County, central Taiwan. The rally's supporters claim to have recruited at least 2 million people to form a human chain over 487km, extending from the northern port of Keelung to Pingtung County near the island's southern tip. Organizers and participants of ``Hand in Hand to Protect Taiwan'' hope the display of people power will focus global attention on the Chinese threat of nearly 500 missiles pointed at the nation.

PHOTO: AP

At least 2 million people yesterday joined together to form an island-long human chain to protest China's military threats and to give the world a clear message that the people of Taiwan want peace, not war, organizers of the rally said.

If the number is accurate, it would set a new record for the size of a demonstration in Taiwan. The participants of the human chain linked hands at 2:28pm yesterday and chanted slogans such as "Love Peace. Oppose missiles."

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), the initiator of the rally, yesterday linked hands in Miaoli County as a symbol of their joint effort to promote Taiwan's independence.

"More than 1 million people have joined hands together to form a democratic great wall. This is a historic attempt by the people to show the world their love for Taiwan and the power that people have to write history with their own hands," Chen said at the rally yesterday.

Chen sent his regards to the participants, saying they had made this event possible, despite the doubts of some that the event would be successful.

Chen said the people of Taiwan had used the mildest, most joyful and dignified way to proclaim their solidarity and determination for peace to the world.

"However, this is just the beginning. We must continue our effort and cast referendum ballots on election day to maintain Taiwan's security," Chen said.

Lee said "seeing a big spectacle like this, in which more than 1 million people have come out to show their love for Taiwan, is the most touching moment I have ever witnessed in my life."

"Such is the power of the people, and this is a victory for the people of Taiwan," Lee said.

Although he appeared to be ailing slightly, Lee said that "the success of the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally is the people's affirmation of Taiwan's national identity and a rejection of China's missile threats."

The massive human chain began in the north at Hoping Island near Keelung, and stretched 500km through 18 cities and counties in western Taiwan, ending at Changlung in Chiatung township, Pingtung County. The characters for "Hoping" and "Changlung" mean peace and prosperity.

Analyzing the event's influence on Chen's re-election prospects, Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), director of the public affairs department at the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) campaign headquarters, said the extraordinary spectacle of the event would touched the hearts of many Taiwanese people, and these feelings will be trans-formed into support for Chen in the election.

"This is also a very big victory for the DPP, as the party has emerged to represent mainstream opinion, as shown by the success of this massive rally. At this moment, we want to ask where the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has been?" Cheng said.

The event also attracted numerous foreign reporters to Taiwan to cover the human chain.

Estonian reporter Mart Laane-mets said "through the event, people feel more and more that they are the bosses of the country, not politicians nor some party."

"When I saw a sign in the rally which said `In 1991, Bush says yes to Baltic States, in 2004, Bush says yes to Taiwan,' I, as a citizen of Estonia, felt very touched and proud and I hope the Baltic experience will be successful for Taiwan as well," Lannemets said.

On Aug. 23, 1989, the three Baltic states, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia formed a 2 million-person human chain covering 600km to protest the former Soviet Union's occupation. Following the human chain protest, the three countries successfully held referendums to declare their independence from Russia.

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