Former Taiwanese presidents Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui have said they support a bid for an independence referendum to be held next April.

Lee said a vote would be the “most powerful weapon” to ensure the island nation is respected as a “normal country,” with a new constitution, under the official name of Taiwan.

Taiwan pro-independence
Taiwan pro-independence supporters display a banner before a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) gathering outside the party headquarters in Taipei on January 16, 2016. File photo: Sam Yeh/AFP.

“I attended the press conference today as a concrete action to show my support for the referendum,” Lee told pro-independence supporters on Wednesday, according to the Central News Agency.

“Taiwan is our country, not China’s,” said Chen in a pre-recorded message. “We have to use our right to vote to show the world Taiwan’s will and determination that the country will never concede to the control of Communist Party of China.”

Chen remains on medical parole whilst serving a 20-year jail sentence for corruption.

Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui.
Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui. Photo: Wikicommons.

Lawmakers, pro-independence groups and ex-vice president Annette Lu also attended the referendum campaign launch. The groups wish to see the country granted full participation at the United Nations along with a declaration of independence.

They called on the government to reform the Referendum Act to allow questions on sovereignty to be considered by the public.

Any move to hold a referendum on Taiwan’s status could invoke the wrath of the Chinese Communist Party. The Beijing government views the island as a renegade province.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said on Wednesday that it remains committed to the peaceful reunification of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Spokesperson An Fengshan was speaking after Beijing sought to abolish term limits for the Chinese president.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.