Fri, Aug 06, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Name-change lobby group changes tack

SOFTER FOCUS Alliance members have decided to play down the more aggressive elements of their campaign and concentrate on a strategy of embracing everybody

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Members of the Alliance to Campaign for Rectifying the Name of Taiwan, left to right, Chan Kuei-mu, Wang To-far, Mayao Kumu, Chen Pei-chi and Wang Cheng-chung, hold a press conference in Taipei yesterday. The members represent different ethnic groups and were promoting a nationwide event this November.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

The campaign to change the national title from "Republic of China" to "Taiwan" will soften its stance and instead focus on continuing the themes of the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally -- national identity and ethnic harmony.

Peter Wang (王獻極), executive director of the Alliance to Campaign for Rectifying the Name of Taiwan, yesterday said that the alliance's name-change rally to be held on Nov. 27 will be less aggressive than last year's event.

The 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally on Feb. 28 was considered a highlight of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) re-election bid, with nearly 2 million people forming a 500km-long human chain to protest China's missiles deployed against Taiwan. Chen and former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) shared a stage during the event.

But because of a declaration Chen made in his inauguration speech on May 20 that constitutional reforms would not raise matters of sovereignty -- including a change of the national title -- the Nov. 27 rally would focus instead on the promotion of a Taiwan-centered consciousness, Wang said.

Wang said that in this way, Chen would be able to participate in the event together with Lee while avoiding the controversial issue.

The Nov. 27 rally will feature carnival-style activities around the country.

Organizers plan for participants to gather in a number of designated places bearing lights as part of the theme of "lighting up and protecting Formosa."

The event will begin at 6pm, followed by speeches and performances. The climax of the event at 10pm will be the simultaneous launch of floating lanterns around the country.

Wang said the reason for the switch is to tone down the political profile of the event and embrace people from across the political and ethnic spectrums, thus strengthening the foundations for Taiwanese identity.

"We haven't changed our ultimate goal to have this country's name changed to Taiwan. But before we can achieve this goal, it is more important to forge a national consensus among everyone living in Taiwan to identify with this place," Wang said.

"By staging the event in a cultural and festive context, we can encourage more people to participate. The more people who are able to recognize their Taiwanese national identity, the easier and more natural it will be for us to persuade the government to go ahead and change the name of the country," he said.

The name-change rally on Sept. 6 last year saw nearly 500,000 people take to the streets in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei.

Lee led throngs of demonstrators in front of the Presidential Office to claim that the Republic of China no longer existed.

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