TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian will join a march against China's anti-secession law on Saturday, aiming to rally one million people to protest the legislation that authorizes the use of force against the island.
Chen, set to become the first Taiwan head of state to take to the streets, said on Thursday the march will be a peaceful expression to protect the island's democracy, trying to assuage fears of ratcheting up tension in one of Asia's hotspots.
"I will bring my family to take part in this sacred moment of history," Chen told organizers of the rally, including the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
"I will march with and stand alongside the people of Taiwan. I will neither make a speech, nor stand on the front line," he said. "But together with everybody, I will shout 'want democracy, love peace' to the opposite side."
The anti-secession law was approved by the Chinese parliament on March 14 and authorized the use of non-peaceful means against the democratically ruled island of 23 million people if it pushed for formal statehood.
The law has drawn angry protests from Taiwan, which Beijing has claimed as its own since the defeated Nationalists fled there at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
BARE BOTTOM PROTEST
Analysts view the anti-secession bill as Beijing's bid to deter Chen from pushing for a formal split from China before the end of his second, and final, term in 2008.
The United States has criticized the law, calling its passage "unfortunate" and a potential setback to cross-Strait relations.
Organizers called for people to bring their children and pets to the rally, which will feature 10 different themes, such as anti-aggression and protecting Taiwan.
In a bid to draw attention to the protest, one social group plans to hold a "naked kiddie butt" event on Saturday, when 706 children between three and six will bare their bottoms plastered with anti-missile stickers.