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Ironduke
06 Sep 03,, 19:42
Taiwanese rally for independence

More than 50,000 demonstrators took to the streets of the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, on Saturday demanding the island's official name be changed from Republic of China to Taiwan.

The marchers want Taiwan to be independent of China and say they can never hope to join the international community as a separate country unless its name changes.

Beijing regards self-governed Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to take back control by force if it seeks to become independent.

China complained bitterly earlier this week when Taiwanese passports were issued for the first time bearing the word Taiwan.

The BBC's Chris Hogg described Saturday's mass rally as another provocative move.

Former president Lee Teng-hui, 80, attended the march to show his support for the name change.

"Today's event is a self-awakening movement of the people," he said. "For a long period of time, we let the external forces determine how we should live.

"We can't let history block democracy and the development of the country any more."

Elections

Other marchers agreed with him. Housewife Hsi Mei-yueh said: "Taiwan must use its own name to go out into the world".

Pensioner Liu Chia-hsiung said: "We elect our own president and parliament. We are, in fact, an independent country, not a part of China."

However, a large number of people in Taiwan are opposed to any moves that might upset the country's ties with China.

With presidential elections less than six months away, current President Chen Shui-bian stayed away from the event.

He has toned down his pro-independence stance in recent years, although he has refused to embrace Beijing's one-China principle that states Taiwan is a part of China.

Correspondents say they expect the independence issue to be central to next year's election campaign, with politicians bitterly divided between those who support independence and those who favour an eventual union with the mainland.

The official name is a legacy from when the Nationalist Party which ruled mainland China fled to the island after losing a civil war to the communists in 1949.

Taiwan is formally recognised by fewer than 30 countries and was replaced at the United Nations by China in 1971.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3085972.stm