Taiwan independence groups to stage mass anti-China rally

TAIPEI (AFP) – Taiwan‘s pro-independence activists will take to the streets of Taipei on Saturday to protest against warming ties with China which they say threaten the sovereignty of the self-ruled island.

The rally, which is expected to draw half a million people according to organisers, would be the biggest protest since Beijing-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May.

Protesters will march under the banner “Opposing toxic products, defending sovereignty” to vent their anger at a planned visit by China’s top negotiator Chen Yunlin to the island next month.

Demonstrators are also demanding that Beijing apologise to Taiwan for selling milk and other products tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, which have sickened at least three children and one woman here.

“We hope Taiwanese people will join the rally to make their voices heard against the Ma government’s soft and weak stance on China,” said Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Former President Chen Shui-bian, who quit the opposition DPP after money laundering claims against him and his family surfaced earlier this year, is set to join the protest.

Some 4,600 police will be on duty in the capital during the event, set to begin at 2:00pm (0600 GMT), amid reported threats against Chen and Tsai, police said.

Police this week arrested a man for allegedly threatening to harm them, while Chen said he had received information of a separate death threat on him relating to his attendance at Saturday’s rally.

The DPP has accused Ma’s government of failing to stand up to China in the wake of the toxic Chinese milk scandal.

Relations with Beijing have improved since Ma came to power, and Chen Yunlin is due to hold talks with Taipei on establishing closer shipping and air cargo links.

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