Fri, Nov 28, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Activists let down as law clears legislature

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Supporters of referendum legislation gather outside the legislature yesterday as lawmakers were reviewing various versions of the proposed law.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The band on the stage was playing a Mayday song, while the 50 and 60-something crowd was mostly inert, with the exception of some who were shaking their heads like the young ecstasy crowd found in nightclubs.

This bizarre scene from yesterday's demonstration outside the legislature was initiated by several social groups, most of which were pro-independence. Organizers included well-known academic groups such as the Taiwan Professors Association and the Northern Taiwan Society, as well as the Alliance to Campaign for Rectifying the Name of Taiwan, the Presbyterian Church and several women's groups.

The groups supported the Cabinet's draft of the referendum bill, which called for a referendum to coincide with the presidential election and a referendum to determine the nation's name and territory.

The performance on the temporary stage outside the legislature was a bizarre mix of impassioned speeches from organizers and politicians, along with Chinese pop songs from student groups, unrelated to referendums.

Rumors ahead of the rally suggested 10,000 people would attend the event, but at the gathering's peak, only 500 people were in attendance.

Most participants were in their 50s and 60s and few young faces could be seen in the crowd.

The demonstration was like a scaled-down version of a rally in September demanding the nation's name be changed. Yesterday's demonstration featured the same groups, flags and rhetoric.

Members of the crowd said, "It is the people's basic right," without elaborating.

"The Republic of China is a sovereign country, and that's a fact," Maria Yu (余念潔) said.

Yu is the deputy chairwoman of the women's group Wild Orchid (野蘭花), one of the social groups that supported the Cabinet's draft.

"There is no need to use a referendum to decide on independence because we are already independent. There is only the need for a referendum when it is reunification we have to decide on," she said.

Chen Kuen-song (陳坤松), a 63-year-old former taxi driver, said, "We have to identify with our country."

He said other countries such as China and the US should not have a say in Taiwan's referendum because it is a domestic issue.

Crowd size dwindled to a few dozen in the evening.

The mood soured after the crowd learned most of the Cabinet's draft bill had been rejected.

"Referendum is a basic right and it would be a victory for people when there is a referendum law," said a middle-aged housewife surnamed Kuo, who was present at the demonstration.

She said she was not clear about the details of the blue camp's draft, but said she thought the pan-green camp's version must have been better.

"After all, pushing for referendums is one of the Democratic Progressive Party's fundamental ideals, and they have proposed a draft after careful consideration," she said.

"The pan-blue camp offered their draft carelessly only to counter the pan-green version. The pan-blue camp won simply because they've got more people in the legislature," Kuo said.

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