Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in southern and central Taiwan yesterday in support of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) respective referendum proposals on the nation's bid to join the UN.
The DPP's government-backed referendum would ask voters whether the nation should apply for UN membership under the name "Taiwan," whereas the KMT's referendum would ask voters whether the nation should apply to "return" to the UN under the name "Republic of China" (ROC) or any other "practical" and dignified title.
In 1971, the ROC's UN seat was granted to the People's Republic of China (PRC).
Supporters of the DPP's proposed referendum flooded the streets in Kaohsiung City yesterday afternoon for a carnival-like rally.
Led by pan-green heavyweights such as President Chen Shui-bian (
Holding signs with slogans such as "UNlimited Taiwan," "Taiwan My Country," "Taiwanese" and "Republic of Taiwan" in both English and Mandarin, people of all ages chanted "Go Taiwan!" and "UN for Taiwan" as they marched.
A marching percussion band composed of some 15 Aboriginal teenage musicians accompanied the parade with its drumming.
Young staffers from Hsieh's campaign office drew attention at the rally by dressing up as objects characteristic of Taiwan, with one staffer clad as a bowl of braised pork rice.
Wang Kun-yao (
Wang, a university student in his junior year, said the nation must gain entry to the UN because doing so would "symbolize Taiwan's de facto independence."
"We need to assert our independent statehood so that we can enjoy dignity in the international community," he said.
"If we do not solve the problem now, 20 years down the road our next generation will still be facing the same problem," said another participant, who only gave his surname Cho (
Cho, a 60 year-old originally from Malaysia, was referring to the nation's failed attempts to join the UN over the past 14 years.
In its 15th year of applying to the UN, the government decided to adopt a new strategy by applying for UN membership using the name "Taiwan" rather than the nation's official title, the ROC.
"If we solve the problem now, we can resolve it once and for all," Cho said.
The procession arrived at a location near Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts around 6pm and was cheered by thousands of DPP supporters who had awaited their arrival.
The highlight of the demonstration came as the paraders passed through a huge "UN" gate, which the DPP said symbolized a successful entry into the international organization.
On the way to the rally, Chen encouraged those who identify with Taiwan to support the DPP's referendum proposal.
"If you think Taiwan is an independent state and not part of the PRC, please support the referendum proposed by the DPP" Chen said while taking the high speed rail from Taipei to Kaohsiung.
"If you think Taiwan is part of China or the PRC, or believe there is `one China' and that Taiwan should ultimately unify with China or that the ROC includes China and Mongolia, please vote for the KMT's referendum proposal," he said.