President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday proposed canceling the Double Ten National Day celebrations for good, amid protests staged by opposition lawmakers at the ceremony held in front of the Presidential Office.
"Because this kind of national day celebration raises so much conflict, and so many people attend the event not to celebrate but to pursue their political agenda, A-bian [Chen's nickname] suggests that the necessity of the event be reviewed, with the possibility of canceling it in future," Chen said in his national day address to the crowd, which included foreign dignitaries and overseas Taiwanese.
Chen made the remarks as red-clad opposition lawmakers, who were separated into two sections near the main podium, began to disrupt the ceremony, making thumbs-down gestures and holding red banners that read "A-bian, step down" and "Depose."
Vice President Annette Lu (
The event marked Wu's first public appearance after a long hiatus reportedly due to illness.
Chen said that freedom of speech is a constitutional right, but he also called for national unity.
"Taiwan is a liberal democracy where different opinions are respected and protected by the law," he said. "Different people have different opinions, but they cannot sabotage national solidarity. Different people have different national identifications, but they cannot divide the country nor drive the government into an idle spin."
Chen said that the 23 million people of Taiwan are all in the same boat, regardless of their differences or political affiliations.
"We respect the right of free choice, but it is our common responsibility to facilitate the nation's development and growth," he said. "Only with greater unity can we weather the storm and sail toward a brighter future."
Chen also condemned North Korea's claim to have detonated an atomic weapon in an underground test on Monday.
"[The test] is a provocative act seriously threatening regional peace and stability," he said. "I am calling on the international community to seriously evaluate the lack of security mechanisms in Northeast Asia."
Unlike with North and South Korea, Chen said, there was no multi-party dialogue platform such as the six-party talks between Taiwan and China.
Chen urged the international community to include Taiwan in the regional system in a bid to ensure peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region.
As a member of the global democratic community, Chen vowed to strengthen Taiwan's self-defense capabilities and expressed the hope of working with the international community to build a more democratic and peaceful world.
Chen said that he understood that many schools and civic groups had declined to attend yesterday's celebrations.
"I'm glad that they are free to express their opinions, unlike 50 years ago," he said.
"As Taiwan has transformed its government from an authoritarian regime to a democracy, it is time to conduct a thorough review of the practice of mobilizing students to involuntarily attend an event," he said.
Chen then showed an autographed baseball and photograph of Taiwanese New York Yankees pitcher Wang Chien-ming (
Wang wrote "Taiwan, jiayou! (an expression of encouragement)" on the ball and the photograph, and Chen led the crowd in chanting "Taiwan jiayou!" and "Jiayou, zai jiayou!"