Sun, Sep 26, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Thousands protest against arms deal

THE COST OF PEACE At the protest, marchers said that purchase of defensive arms will spark an arms race with China, and possibly lead the nation into war

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thousands of protesters from opposition parties and civil organizations yesterday marched on Taipei City to oppose the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government's proposed NT$610 billion (US$18 billion) arms procurement plan with the US, saying the policy will lead to an arms race with China and lead to war.

"The slogan of opposing the arms purchase deal absolutely represents the majority of Taiwanese people, especially since the government is mired in financial problems," said Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), a former DPP chairman and now an outspoken anti-DPP activist.

"The smartest course of action would be to avoid a war because Taiwan would lose," he said. "The DPP government's policy is pushing the nation to the edge of war."

The protest, entitled "Love Taiwan, oppose the arms-deal" began at 2pm at the Sun Yat-shen Memorial Hall. Participants marched toward Ketagelan Boulevard and held a "Love and Peace, Pray for Taiwan" rally in front of the Presidential Office.

Anti-Arms Purchasing Alliance convener Chang Ya-chung (張亞中), who organized the protest, said that the purpose of the demonstration was to motivate the public to seriously consider the connection between their future and the arms deal.

The government expects to win the approval of the Legislative Yuan for the arms purchase before the end of the current session in January.

A number of protesters carried anti-US slogans, while one person was dressed as a monster-like Uncle Sam, cavorting with another protester wearing a mask of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

The the Anti-Arms Purchasing Alliance, along with the Democratic Advancement Alliance (DAA) claimed the protest was not tied to a specific political party.

Many People First Party (PFP) and New Party (NP) candidates for the year-end legislative elections attended the protest.

Independent Legislator Sisy Chen (陳文茜), former NP Legislator Lai Shih-pao (賴世葆), Hsin Hsin-liang, PFP vice chairman Chang Chao-hsiung (張昭雄) and DAA member Hsieh Ta-ning (謝大寧) joined in holding a huge banner while leading the protest marchers.

Members representing labors rights groups, education reform and gender equality organizations attended the protest.

"The country has so many important issues that need to be solved immediately, such as the high unemployment rate, education and women's rights. We can't let the government send money to the US and leave a huge debt for the next generation," said Tang Shu (唐曙), leader of the Labor Rights Association.

According to the Cabinet, the arms deal package includes eight diesel-powered submarines, Patriot III anti-missile systems and 12 P3-C anti-submarine aircraft over a 15-year period beginning in 2005.

"One P3-C aircraft costs NT$5.9 billion, and we only need NT$1 billion to ensure that every primary student can eat a free breakfast at school," Tang said.

"The money to be used for the P3-missile could be used to feed primary students a free lunch for next 10 years," Tang added.

Meanwhile, at the KMT National Party Congress today, Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) said that the arms budget should be reduced and paid for through "alternative methods."

"While the KMT supports strong national defenses, the massive arms budget is not the key to a stable future," Lien said.

"The KMT does support a certain level of military expenditure, however, we think that the government should cut most of the arms procurement budget to allocate money to education and social welfare," he added.

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