Taiwan prez warns China against anti-secession law

Associated Press

Taipei, Januray 21:

Taiwan’s leader today warned rival China against passing a planned anti-secession law, saying the legislation may force the island to hold a referendum opposing it. President Chen Shui-bian made the remarks in an interview with Japan’s Mainichi newspaper this week, according to a Presidential Office statement received today.

The anti-secession law, slated to be discussed by China’s parliament in March, is viewed as part of Beijing’s campaign to pressure democratic, self-ruled Taiwan into uniting with the mainland. The sides split amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing claims that Taiwan is a part of its territory and has routinely threatened war if it pursues independence. Taiwanese are closely watching whether the legislation would set a legal ground for a possible military strike.

“If they indeed pass the law in March, it may compel Taiwanese to take to the streets and possibly even push for an anti-annexation law,” Chen was quoted saying.

“This may force our government to proceed with a referendum to counter the law,” he was quoted saying. “It would be a development that neither I nor the Taiwan government would like to see happen.” Despite the lingering political tensions, negotiators from Taiwan and China agreed last week to allow 48 round-trip charter flights carrying Taiwanese working in the mainland back home during the Lunar New Year holiday that starts on February 9.

Taiwan has banned direct flights for half a century because of security concerns, and Taiwanese complain they have to fly through a third point at extra time and expense. The planes are to travel via Hong Kong airspace instead of flying directly across the 160 km Taiwan Strait.

Chen said he hoped the agreement would help improve relations. “It will have certain significance to the normalisation of relations,” Chen was quoted as saying.