Thousands of local protestors took to the streets of Taipei on Saturday (Oct 20) to rally for a referendum for the island’s formal independence. Assembled outside the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DDP), the demonstration was a challenge to the moderate stance of incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen, who seeks to maintain the status-quo in the tenuous and embattled relationship between Taiwan and China– a position that has won her backing from Washington. Tsai’s quiescence towards separation is contrary to the DPP’s traditionally pro-independent stance. However, that has not stopped her from challenging China’s pressure since she took office in 2016 as she refuses adherence to Beijing’s claims of Taiwan being part of “one China”.
The protest was organised by the new Formosa Alliance, which is backed by both pro-independence former Taiwan presidents, Mr Lee Teng-hui and Mr Chen Shui-bian. The organiser claimed 120 000 protestors turned up for the rally, while local newspaper United Daily News reported a 30,000 turnout. The local police claimed there were no more than 5000 protestors.
Paging for Beijing
Despite being run by separate governing bodies since the end of a civil war in 1949, present-day Taiwan has not officially separated from China, and as such, has seen herself constantly embroiled in tension with the Chinese authorities. Beijing has threatened Taiwan with military force if it attempts a formal split from China.
A vote on independence would require an amendment to current laws, which currently bars referendums that would alter the constitution. Formosa Alliance is urging the DPP government, which holds the majority in parliament, to change the laws and allow the people of Taiwan to vote for a decision.
Experts have stated that Tsai would be unlikely to amend the laws, which could potentially incur Beijing’s forewarned wrath. Chinese authorities have further threatened the Formosa Alliance, that they are treading a “dangerous path” should they continue this current discourse pertaining to Taiwan’s separation and claims of sovereignty.