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Fri, May 19, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan gears up for celebrations

PARTY GUESTS Leading members of the world's democracy movements are among those coming to Taipei to witness the beginning of a new era in Taiwan's government

By Catherine Sung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The invitation list for Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) presidential inauguration tomorrow reads like a Who's Who of democratic movements in Asia and elsewhere.

Among the estimated 1,600 guests now jetting in to Taipei to witness the country's first transition in political power are notable figures such as East Timor's Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Belo, and Cambodia's outspoken opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

Former Chinese student democracy leader Wang Dan (王丹) will also be among those in attendance, while human rights activist Wei Jingsheng (魏京生) has not yet confirmed his trip here.

Other leaders who were invited but could not come include Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, Myanmar's opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and former Philippine President Corazon Aquino.

A delegation led by Tibetan parliamentary leader Samdhong Rinpoche, however, will be attending the May 20 inauguration, while Suu Kyi has sent a letter thanking Chen for the invitation and explained there were great difficulties in sending a representative.

Another Nobel laureate, Lech Walesa, the first president of Poland in the post-communist era, is also on the list.

A key figure in pushing for democratic reform in Asia, former New York congressman Stephen Solarz, will also be among the distinguished guests at the Presidential Office this weekend. Solarz had been a fierce critic of the KMT regime when Taiwan was under martial law.

Who Else is Coming to Dinner?

Overall, there are 80-plus delegations coming from among the 29 countries with formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, 28 countries without formal ties, and 11 international organizations.

In contrast to outgoing President Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) inauguration in 1996 -- where eight heads-of-state were in attendance -- national leaders from Swazi-land, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Palau and Nauru will be present tomorrow.

President Lee is to formally welcome each leader with a 21-gun salute at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall this morning. The new president will see the leaders off with a similar ceremony in the afternoon of May 22.

Tonight, outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs Chen Chien-jen (程建人) is to host a cocktail party for all the visiting foreign guests in addition to officials from Taiwan's own government.

An estimated 5000 people will be rubbing shoulders during the event at the Taipei Guest House.

The Hilton Hotel is expected to dispatch 50 chefs to lay on an array of Taiwanese snacks, grouped to reflect different regional and ethnic specialties.

The street vendor-style foods range from dan-dan noodles (擔仔麵) and lotus seed flavored stripe soup (蓮子豬肚四神湯) -- specialties from Chen's birthplace of Tainan -- to oyster vermicelli (蚵仔麵線) and tofu pudding (豆花).

Inauguration Day

On inauguration day, Chen will first take his oath of office at 9am in front of a statue of Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) and the national flag followed by a public declaration of a presidential oath at 11am, the first such oath ever for an ROC president.

The swearing-in ceremony will be presided over by Judicial Yuan President Weng Yueh-sheng (翁岳生) and Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) who will hand over the national seal and the seal of the Presidential Office to the new president.

Due to limited space in the Presidential Office, only the five heads-of-state will witness the swearing-in at 9am.

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