Taiwan to rally against China law

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Taipei

Taiwan wants the protest to draw foreign attention to China's law

Senior politicians in Taiwan have urged their people to join a protest against China's anti-secession law passed earlier this month.

The law allows China, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province, to use what it calls non-peaceful means against any move by Taiwan towards independence.

Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend the protest on Saturday.

The island's government has been heartened by broad international criticism of China's new legislation.

Joseph Wu, who heads Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, the body responsible for the island's dealings with China, says it is an attempt to remind the rest of the world that Taiwan feels it is under threat.

"We also want to show to the Chinese side that we are angry over the Chinese action and we want to let the Chinese side know that the law has dealt a severe blow to the prospect of peaceful negotiations in between Taiwan and China," Mr Wu said.

Presidential participation

There was a noisy protest by taxi drivers in the centre of Taipei as demonstrators began to gather around the city on Saturday morning.

Ten different routes have been organised, all finishing here in the wide boulevard in front of the presidential palace.

President Chen Shui-Bian is taking part, but he won't make a major speech.

He is aware the rally has already provoked anger in Beijing and analysts say he won't want to inflame the situation still further.

Senior government officials in Taiwan argue that relations with China have already been damaged by the new law and that what is needed now is an olive branch from Beijing.

Some analysts say the march is a clever move by the Taiwanese government to focus the efforts of its more radical pro-independence supporters on street protests rather than on drawing up new anti-China legislation which might, in the long term, cause more damage to cross-straits relations.