IMAGE: Anti-China march
Taiwanese protesters carry signs and shout slogans in protest Saturday against Beijing's anti-secession law in Taipei.
updated 3/26/2005 9:52:47 AM ET 2005-03-26T14:52:47

About a million Taiwanese marched through the capital on Saturday at a rally protesting a new Chinese law that authorizes an attack on the island if it moves toward formal independence.

Hundreds of thousands assembled at 10 different areas in Taipei, with each route representing one of the articles of the anti-secession law. The marchers converged on the wide boulevard in front of the Presidential Office building.

“China is a violent country. We want nothing to do with it,” said protester Wu Chao-hsiung, a carpenter from Taipei. “We have to insist on the freedom to determine our own fate.”

Beijing is worried that self-ruled Taiwan is drifting toward independence, and China’s legislature recently passed a law codifying the use of military force against Taiwan if it seeks a permanent split. A civil war split the rivals 56 years ago.

“What do we want from China? Peace,” lawmaker Bikhim Hsiao led the crowd in chanting.

Thousands of tour buses brought protesters to Taipei from all over the island. Police estimated the crowd at about a million.

Organizers billed the protest as a carnival for peace. A five-story-high white balloon representing peace, and an equally tall model of a red sea urchin, its needles symbolizing the missiles China is pointing at Taiwan, were erected at the protest site. The sea urchin model was deflated at the end of the rally, while protesters climbed over it, trying to tear it apart.

“Taiwan is only a small island, so we must speak out really loud to make the world hear that we are a democracy facing an evil giant,” said Vivian Wang, a 38-year-old restaurant worker. She had traveled by bus from the southern city of Kaohsiung — about 190 miles away.

Behind her, U.S. and Japanese flags were flying below a green protest banner. Many Taiwanese see those two countries as the island’s most likely allies in any military conflict with China.

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