Thu, Oct 25, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Minor skirmishes as DPP launches UN torch relay

CLASHES A KMT youth corps bearing flags attempted to provoke DPP supporters at the event, but was pushed away by police, whom it accused of stealing its flags

By Ko Shu-lingand Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Frank Hsieh, center, vice presidential candidate Su Tseng-chang, right, and Presidential Office Secretary-General Yeh Chu-lan, left, take part in the first stage of a UN torch relay in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

Amid physical clashes and protests, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday launched a nation-wide torch relay in support of its UN membership bid under the name "Taiwan."

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) lit the torch during a ceremony at 7am on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office.

The two then led the crowd in a run along the boulevard to Jingfumen (景福門), where DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and his running mate, Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), received the torches from Chen and Lu.

A group of some 20 athletes will complete the 1,200km torch relay across 25 cities and counties in 11 days.

The torch will return to Taipei on Nov. 3, when the DPP will hold an evening gala at National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall.

Members of the crowd shouted slogans outside the Chang Yung-fa Foundation building, where the KMT headquarters once stood.

Chen said the torch relay was the most peaceful and reasonable way to express the will of the 23 million Taiwanese to join the UN under the name "Taiwan."

Saying that Taiwan and China are two different countries, Chen told the crowd that joining the UN under the name "Taiwan" reflected the opinion of the public and a was a way to assert its sovereignty.

"Taiwan has never been a province of the People's Republic of China [PRC]," he said. "Taiwan and China are two different countries across the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan has every right to ask for a seat at the UN with all other peace-loving countries in the world."

The torch relay is also a means to lodge a protest with Beijing, which keeps using next year's Olympic torch relay to attack and denigrate Taiwan's status, Chen said.

International support is important for Taiwan's UN bid, Chen said, but what is more important is unity in Taiwan.

Chen said it was the first time the country applied for UN membership using the name "Taiwan" and that although the results so far had not been satisfactory, the new approach had attracted much attention from international media and touched off heated debate in the international community.

The Executive Yuan has designated Oct. 24 as Taiwan UN Day and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has founded a UN Research Center to help the government set policy for the UN campaign.

Minutes before Chen wrapped up his speech, a cyclist lost consciousness in front of the president and was rushed to the hospital.

Hsieh, who had just recovered from a sprained ankle, said it still hurt but that he was happy because many people participated in the event. Organizers hoped 100,000 people would take part in the 11-day event.

Hsieh said his injured ankle was like the country's UN bid. The road is bumpy and sometimes a price has to be paid, but in the end, the result is rewarding, he said.

As the DPP is in the second phase of petitioning to hold a referendum on applying to the UN, Hsieh called on the public to support the signature drive.

Su said the run did not start as smoothly as expected because of the large number of participants. He likened the event to the country's UN bid, adding that the more participants there were, the more power for the nation.

Earlier in the morning, members of the anti-Chen campaign urged the DPP administration to immediately stop the event, claiming it violated the Assembly and Parade Law(集會遊行法).

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