The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Thousands march in Taipei for name change

Taipei, Sept. 6 (Reuters): At least 50,000 people demonstrated in Taipei today calling for the island’s official name to be changed from the Republic of China to Taiwan, a move Beijing would likely regard as a step towards independence.

Protesters chanted “Taiwan people, Taiwan nation” and “Use the name Taiwan to join the United Nations” as they slowly marched through Taipei’s city centre to the presidential office.

With presidential elections six months away, President Chen Shui-bian did not join the rally to avoid alienating mainstream voters, but said he supported the call. “If I were not the president, I would have participated in the event,” said Chen, who has mellowed his pro-independence stance since taking office, but refuses to embrace Beijing’s one-China principle that states Taiwan is a part of China.

Witnesses said more than 50,000 people took part, while organisers estimated the turnout could top 100,000 people. Many participants were bused in from the south by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and other pro-independence parties.

“Taiwan is Taiwan. It has never run mainland China. Why should we insist on calling our country the Republic of China'” asked Chen Feng-ming, a 45-year-old businesswoman from the southern city of Kaohsiung.

The name “Republic of China” is a legacy from when the former ruling Nationalist Party ruled mainland China before fleeing to Taiwan after losing a civil war to the communists in 1949. The government in Beijing took the name “People’s Republic of China”. Beijing insists there is only one China and regards self-governing Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be eventually reunified.

Although an overwhelming majority of the Taiwan public wants to maintain the ambiguous status quo, local politics is bitterly split between groups favouring independence for the island or eventual union with the mainland. The protesters demanded the government use the name Taiwan when it applies to join the UN later this month. Beijing has blocked Taiwan’s membership bid every year since 1993.

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