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Taiwan to hold torch relay promoting UN bid

Taiwan to hold torch relay promoting UN bid

President Chen Shui-bian said Tuesday that he was confident a planned referendum on Taiwan's membership in the United Nations would pass when it is put to voters in March.
Chen's comments came a day before he runs the first leg in an 11-day, 1,200 kilometer (756 mile) torch relay to highlight Taiwan's bid to join the United Nations under its own name, rather than the island's official title of the Republic of China.
The distinction is crucial, because it reflects Chen's belief that Taiwan should be formally separate from China, from which it split amid civil war in 1949. The Republic of China name connotes fealty to the one-China concept that Beijing demands and the United States accepts.
Almost 60 years after the split, Beijing continues to insist that Taiwan is part of its territory, and has threatened war if it seeks to make its de facto independence permanent.
Speaking on a radio program in the southern city of Kaohsiung, Chen said it was his responsibility to put Taiwan on the world stage by pushing the U.N. referendum forward.
"If I cannot help Taiwan use its own name to become a U.N. member, then I am not doing my job," he said. "I am confident that we will pass the U.N. referendum next year."
The referendum is scheduled to coincide with presidential elections on March 22. In that poll Frank Hsieh of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party faces off against Ma Ying-jeou of the main opposition Nationalists. Chen completes his second and final four year term in May.
The U.N. referendum needs the support of 50 percent of the Taiwanese electorate to pass _ a tall order because only about 80 percent of voters traditionally participate in presidential elections.
But government opinion polls suggest it is favored by about 70 percent of the population _ more than enough to put it over the top.
In parallel with Chen's torch relay, Ma and the Nationalists are mounting their own effort to push Taiwanese membership in the United Nations _ a multi-day cycling event around the island.
In contrast to Chen's insistence that Taiwan enter the world body under its own name, Ma's event will encourage it to re-enter as the Republic of China _ the name under which it was expelled when the U.N. China seat was transferred to the Beijing government of the People's Republic of China in 1971.
"We want to tell the public that we have better chances returning to the U.N. under the name of Republic of China," said Nationalist spokesman Su Jun-pin.
Taiwan's bid to become part of the United Nations seems doomed under either name. China opposes the island's representation in international organizations, and it wields a veto in the Security Council, which has the ability to blackball new U.N. entrants.


Updated : 2021-10-24 17:36 GMT+08:00