(dpa) - Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian on Thursday warned that if two upcoming referendums on the island joining the United Nations failed, Taiwan would be seriously hurt.
"If they are not passed, Taiwan would face even bigger suppression from China," Chen said in his weekly online newsletter.
He was referring to a referendum initiated by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on the island joining the United Nations under the name of Taiwan, and a second one proposed by the opposition Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), on the island returning to the global body under any title.
Both votes are scheduled to be held alongside the presidential election on March 22.
Washington and Beijing have warned Taipei against holding the referendums, especially as using the name Taiwan is seen as a step towards formal independence for the self-ruling island.
Taiwan's official designation is the Republic of China.
On Thursday, former premier Tang Fei, incumbent Taichung Mayor Jason Hu and a group of former Taiwanese ambassadors urged the public not to take part in the vote.
They said most Taiwanese wanted to return to the United Nations, which awarded the China seat to Beijing instead of Taipei in 1971, but even if the referendums passed, there was no chance of this happening as long as Beijing opposed it.
Recent opinion polls have also shown that most people in Taiwan believe the government should make improving the economy its priority rather than seeking to join the United Nations.