Chen Shui-Bian: 'Taiwan must assert its right to its own national identity'

Taken from the New Year message by the President of the Republic of China (Taiwan)

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With the changeover between the old and new centuries, the power of the people has provided an impetus for Taiwan's continued democratisation. It has also enabled a "Taiwan consciousness"- viewed as a taboo by the immigrant regime of our past - to gradually take root on this land and thrive in the hearts of our people.

The "Taiwan consciousness" breaks away from the shackles of historical bondage and political dogma, and is founded upon the 23 million people of Taiwan's own self-recognition, devotion to the land, and the understanding of their shared destiny. Irrespective of whence they came, no one now sees this land as a foreign country or himself as a sojourner passing through. For this is where generations to come prosper and pass on their legacies - Taiwan is our home and each of us, master of this land.

The emergence of "Taiwan consciousness" and a wave of democratisation have galvanised the aspiration of the Taiwan people to be masters of their own land; all ethnic groups are coming to realise that issues concerning national identity are an inescapable reality that must be confronted and addressed. Failure to come to terms with who we are as a nation and to consolidate consensus on national identity means the people of Taiwan will never be able to stand proudly, confidently and in solidarity on the world stage.

Imagine telling friends from abroad about this place we call home - that in Taiwan beautiful mountains and rivers sprawl across a splendid, sculptured landscape; that its 23 million inhabitants are industrious and friendly people who embrace the universal values of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. Yet, it is grievously saddening that circumstances forbid us from saying out loud consistently the name of our country - such is indeed a heartbreaking and humiliating predicament.

The sovereignty of Taiwan is vested in its 23 million people, and is not subject to the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China. Only the 23 million people of Taiwan have the right to decide Taiwan's future.

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