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Tens of thousands rally against Taiwan’s Ma

Image Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Taipei yesterday to protest what they said was President Ma Ying-jeou's China-friendly policies and his failure to lift Taiwan's sagging economy.
Braving the heat, the slogan-chanting demonstrators — pro-independence activists and their sympathisers — launched the island's first major rally against Ma since he took office on May 20.
They demanded Hong Kong-born Ma step down over his conciliatory approach to China. The pro-independence rhetoric of his predecessor Chen Shui-bian of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had irked Beijing.
Peter Wang, the rally organiser, told AFP Ma's stance on China meant "Taiwan's sovereignty is being sacrificed."
Ma was elected in a landslide in March and has pledged to improve ties with China. The two sides launched regular direct flights for the first time in nearly six decades last month.
His government has also allowed more Chinese tourists to visit the island and relaxed controls on China-bound investments, issues which had been shunned by the former DPP government.
"We're afraid an economic integration between Taiwan and China would eventually lead to political unification, which is absolutely unacceptable to Taiwan people," Wang said.
Pro-independence activists say that Ma's conciliatory China policy will not stop Beijing squeezing Taiwan internationally.
Taiwan lost its UN seat to China in 1971, and Beijing has blocked its past 15 attempts to return to the world body.
The rally comes with the island fixated on snowballing financial irregularities implicating Chen and his family.
The high-profile scandal has dealt another blow to pro-independence groups still reeling from the DPP's two crushing defeats in the March presidential polls and the January parliamentary election.
"Taiwan's economy was a mess when the country was ruled by DPP over the past eight years. They are supposed to be responsible for that, but now they blame the Kuomintang government only 100 days after we took the helm," Kuomintang chairman Wu Poh-hsiung told a separate gathering.
The Kuomintang is the ruling party with which Ma is affiliated.