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Taiwan independence referendum to hold in 2019

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The two ex-presidents voiced their support for the initiative on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. “I attended the press conference today as a concrete action to show my support for the referendum,” Lee Teng-hui said to hundreds of pro-Taiwan independence supporters at a kick-off event for the campaign, reported NSNBC.

Lee stressed that a referendum is the “most powerful weapon” with which the people of Taiwan can set up the country as a “normal country” with the official name of “Taiwan” under a new constitution. The country can also apply to join international organizations and present itself in the world “under the name ‘Taiwan,'” Lee said.

Taiwan, whose official name is the “Republic of China,” is formally recognized by only 20 countries around the world and has been blocked from membership in the United Nations and other global organizations because of obstruction from China, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory.

The People’s Republic of China is using everything from implied military threats to a “soft-power” approach that definitely will not accept more than one elephant in Beijing’s “One China Must Fit All” policy, involving among others implied threats of “economic repercussions” for its increasingly Beijing-dependent and compliant international trade partners. Instruments like a “referendum” are unheard of in “The People’s Republic” where public criticism of the Communist party of China can land a person behind bars or worse.

In a pre-recorded video, Chen, who is on medical parole from a 20-year jail term for corruption, said Taiwan must exert its rights of self-determination to determine the future of the country, including the nation’s name, its participation in the United Nations, and a declaration of independence. “Taiwan is our country, not China’s,” Chen said. “We have to use our right to vote to show the world Taiwan’s will and determination that the country will never concede to the control of Communist Party of China,” he said.

The press conference was also joined by former vice president Annette Lu New Power Party (NPP) lawmaker Huang Kuo-chang, Social Democratic Party convenor Fan Yun, and many leaders of pro-independence groups. The campaign to call a referendum on Taiwan independence on April 6, 2019, was launched by Formosa TV (FTV) Chairman Kuo Bei-hong. Referendums in the past have been held in conjunction with major elections to maximize participation, but the target date for the independence referendum was chosen for more symbolic reasons, the groups said.

The date of April 6, 2019, was selected to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Deng Nan-jung, a Taiwan independence and democracy advocate who self-immolated on April 7, 1989 in defense of “100 percent freedom of expression.” But holding such a referendum envisioned faces a major hurdle. Though Taiwan’s Referendum Act was amended in December 2017 to allow lower thresholds for initiating and passing referendum questions, questions related to constitutional issues, including sovereignty issues, still cannot be decided through referendums.

Independence referendum advocates at Wednesday’s press conference called on the Democratic Progressive Party administration to amend the Referendum Act to allow for sovereignty issues to be put to a popular vote.

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China warned Taiwan on Monday that it "will never tolerate any separatist schemes" amid tensions between the mainland and the self-ruled island, reported Channel News Asia (Singapore).

The government issued the warning in a report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang to the opening of the annual session of the National People's Congress, the Communist Party-controlled rubber-stamp parliament.

The report says Beijing will continue to uphold its "one China" principle and promote the "peaceful growth" of cross-strait relations under the 1992 consensus, which agrees that there is only one country without specifying which is its rightful representative.

Beijing will also "advance China's peaceful reunification," according to the text.

"We will remain firm in safeguarding China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will never tolerate any separatist schemes or activities for 'Taiwan independence'," it says.

China still sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification and has cut off official communications with Taipei as President Tsai Ing-wen refuses to acknowledge the democratic island as part of "one China".

China voiced anger last week after the US Senate passed a Taiwan travel bill to encourage visits between Washington and Taipei "at all levels".

Washington cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979, recognising the Communist mainland rulers in Beijing as the sole government of "one China."

But Washington has kept an ambiguous approach to the island, maintaining trade relations and selling weapons to Taipei, further angering Beijing.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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