- Title: TAIWAN : Tawain's presidential candidates campaign on election eve
- Date: 21st March 2008
- Summary: A CROWD OF SUPPORTERS CHEERING AND WAVING FLAGS
- Embargoed: 5th April 2008 13:00
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAEQZ888HKDQRQR4H8TCGAI618Y
- Story Text: Taiwan presidential candidates embark on a last-effort campaign push on election eve as overseas Taiwanese return to cast their votes.
Taiwan's stormy relations with China and recent violence in Tibet are dominating the final hours before the island's presidential election on Saturday (March 22), as each side seeks to show it is best qualified to resist Beijing.
Supporters in Taipei stood alongside the city's streets on Friday (March 21), waving flags and waiting for Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou to arrive for his final campaign rally.
Taiwan residents, like Hsieh Kai-wen, support Ma for his policy of supporting open trade with China.
"Time is changing and I think it should not be separated. We should take the advantages of both China and Taiwan and work with the world," explained Hsieh.
In the meantime, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh's campaign also gathered lines of vehicles with party flags and slogans, to spread the message on the streets.
"Of course we need to vote for true Taiwanese, because Ma Ying-jeou doesn't know his own nationality, maybe he is a Communist,"
said one Hsieh supporter, Mr. Zhang, who said Ma aligned himself more to China than to Taiwan.
Hsieh, who has trailed in media polls, has pushed a message that to vote for the more China-friendly Nationalist Party candidate Ma Ying-jeou could make Taiwan "a second Tibet".
China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan as its territory since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and pledged to bring the island under its rule, by force if necessary. China sent its troops into Tibet, rocked by anti-China rioting last week, in 1950.
After recent incidents of violence in Tibet, Zhang is concerned about closer ties with China.
"Of course, like I said, there are no human rights, no democracy and there is dictatorship," said Zhang.
Ma and Hsieh, each have graced candlelit vigils alongside robed monks and local Tibetans for those believed killed by soldiers or police in Tibetan areas of China since protests began on March 10.
But Ma's party advocates eventual unification with China, while Hsieh's seeks independence. Hsieh's cartoon TV commercials have lampooned Ma's proposal for a common market with China, showing Chinese workers and poisoned food pouring into Taiwan.
Local newspapers report that more than 200 thousand overseas Taiwanese have come back to the island to vote. Many say they had to return as every vote is crucial.
"It is far to come back from Europe, but this time we feel every vote is important, so we must come back and vote," said Alice Huang, an overseas Taiwanese who travelled from Europe to cast her vote.
Ma, known for his clean professional image and strong economic platform who has focused his final campaign hours on reaching voters in the sometimes anti-KMT south, still leads Hsieh in opinion surveys by five to 10 percent, analysts say.
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