Taipei (AFP) Nov 9, 2009
About 1,000 Taiwanese have launched a 49-day round-the-island walk to call for a referendum on a controversial trade agreement with China, organisers said Monday.
Participants have decided to hit the road amid fears the government wants to push through the much-anticipated Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China without consulting the public, they said.
"Affairs between Taiwan and China must be decided in a referendum. The government cannot make that decision single-handedly," said Chen Chen-tzi, a member of the People's Sovereignty Movement, which organised the walk.
The walk kicked off Sunday in Taipei, where it is scheduled to end on December 26, she told AFP.
While 1,000 participated on the first day, the number fell on Monday as some of the participants had to work, she added.
On its website, the movement said it was concerned about the future of the island under the China-friendly government of President Ma Ying-jeou.
"Any changes across the Taiwan Strait will impact the island's security and future. The 23 million people here have the right to decide and bear the consequences of their decisions," the movement said.
Details of the pact have not been made public, but the Ma administration says it will boost the flow of goods and personnel and help the island tackle the global downturn.
Taiwan's media Monday quoted the head of China's Cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Office, Wang Yi, as saying China is ready to sign the agreement, while Taiwanese officials are aiming to ink it early next year.
China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still considers the island part of its territory and wants it back, by force if need be.
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