In China, thousands of people came out to protest

Tens of thousands rally for Taiwan independence vote

"I don't want to see Taiwan swallowed up by China".

While the organisers said on Saturday that 120,000 people took part in the rally, police said there were no more than 5,000.

By Lawrence ChungThousands of Taiwan independence campaigners rallied in Taipei on Saturday demanding President Tsai Ing-wen allow a referendum to decide whether the self-ruled island should break from mainland China.

"Taiwanese people want to be their own master", he added.

China's increasing engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean is part of a tactic to diplomatically isolate Taiwan, a report released on Wednesday by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said.

If families with young children were present at the gathering, the majority of the protesters were older.

"There is that, through the organisation of a referendum we, the people of taiwan, can demonstrate to the global community our right to build a new independent country", said Tsai Wen-li, 63 years old, a postal employee to the pension wearing a t-shirt proclaiming "Taiwan is my country".

But that has not prevented relations deteriorating since she took office in 2016, as she refuses to adhere to Beijing's line that Taiwan is part of "one China". "The Taiwanese want Taiwan to become a normal country".

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But the rally did not call for an independence vote and in a statement ahead of the protest, the DPP emphasized it did not want to "change the status quo of Taiwan's independent sovereignty".

Many pro-independence supporters had been highly critical of Tsai and the DPP for failing to uphold its pro-independence platform, he said.

Organizers claimed a turnout of more than 100,000, far outdoing a parallel rally held by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in the southern city of Kaohsiung, its heartland.

"The PDP has forbidden his officials and candidates to participate in the event, organising its own protest against the" annexation" of Taiwan by China in its stronghold of Kaohsiung (south), without calling for a vote on independence.

According to Formosa Alliance, the group that organised the event, the protesters were allowed to gather only in a restricted area outside the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Beiping East Road.

Yen Ming-wei (顏銘緯), spokesman of the pro-independence Taiwan Radical Wings, said both rallies shared a strong anti-China stance, which boosts the momentum of building what he described as a "normalized Taiwan".

While Tsai's cautious approach to ties with Beijing has won support from the USA, many in Taiwan, including many in her own party, are impatient for progress in translating the island's functional independence into de jure statehood.



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