Pro-democracy protesters demand referendum on Taiwan independence

Pro-democracy protesters demand referendum on Taiwan independence 

Taiwan pro-independence protesters, hold placards and shout slogans during a protest in Taipei, Taiwan, Oct. 20, 2018. EPA-EFE/RITCHIE B. TONGO

Taipei, Oct 20 (efe-epa).- Tens of thousands of protesters descended on the Taiwanese capital Saturday calling for an independence referendum, despite threats from China, which claims sovereignty over the island.

According to organizers, around 80,000 people took part in a rally in central Taipei, backed by the pro-independence Formosa Alliance, which favors a full secessionist vote and also wants the government to change the country’s name from the Republic of China to Taiwan, an issue that has strained relations with mainland China.

“Say No to China, Say Yes to Taiwan,” was one of the slogans emblazoned on the thousands of placards held aloft by demonstrators in the capital.

Taiwan has been governed separately from China since the end of the civil war in 1949, but Beijing officials have consistently claimed the island is part of the PRC and uses its diplomatic clout to limit Taipei’s influence on the global stage.

Beijing has also repeatedly warned it would take reactionary measures against Taiwan should it declare full independence, something it has never officially done.

The Formosa Alliance, which is backed by former Taiwanese presidents Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, seeks to the pressure the current Democratic Progressive Party government to harden its stance against diplomatic and military hostility from China and change the constitution to remove Beijing’s sway over the island state.

But President Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the pro-democracy DPP, has erred on the side of caution, opting instead to maintain status quo.

A government-sponsored separate rally also got underway in the southern city of Kaohsiung, where protesters marched against China’s annexation of Taiwan but fell short of advocating for a full independence vote.

According to a survey carried out by the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation in September, around 36.2 percent of the island’s population support full independence, while 23.2 percent preferred status quo and 26.1 percent wanted integration with China, while some 14.6 percent were not sure.