Int'l Herald Tribune

Taipei calls legislation 'malicious' and 'crude'

By Chris Buckley International Herald Tribune
Wednesday, March 9, 2005

BEIJING Taiwan on Tuesday condemned the anti-secession law presented to the National People's Congress in Beijing, calling it a "blank check" that would allow China to launch hostilities against the island.

The Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei, the government office that deals with issues concerning China, described the proposed law as "malicious" and "crude" and warned that it would threaten regional peace.

"This law exposes China's plot to impose armed force to swallow up Taiwan," the council said in a written response. "In essence, it has handed its military a blank check to unleash force against Taiwan."

In an explanation of the proposed anti-secession law, Wang Zhaoguo, a deputy president of the National People's Congress, reiterated Beijing's claim that Taiwan was a part of China and listed measures that China would take to encourage Taiwan to eventually accept peaceful reunification with China.

But reaction on Taiwan focused on the part of his speech that laid out the circumstances under which China would resort to war to protect its claims over Taiwan.

"The fact that there is a law legalizing threats against Taiwan is itself problematic," said Hsiao Bi-khim, a legislator with President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party.

"It's unwise to devise measures that will complicate the already complicated situation," she said.

The law threatens to undermine the fragile goodwill that Taiwan and China recently developed by allowing direct flights between them over the Lunar New Year holiday period, she said.

China's threats would make problems for plans by Chen to overhaul the Taiwan Constitution and other laws, because of the risk they would provoke Beijing's wrath, said other Taiwan politicians and observers.

"They're certainly concerned about the constitutional amendments," said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, a research center in Taipei.

"So the statement is very much focused on de jure independence - if Taiwan pushes for independence by changing its Constitution or laws," he said.

The proposed law highlighted China's determination to reserve the right to decide what laws or acts amounted to Taiwan independence, said Chang Jung-kung, a spokesman for the opposition National Party.

Language in the proposed law "stresses the mainland will resort to force if it decides Taiwanese independence is going to happen, not only if it does happen."

Taiwan officials and legislators said they were still waiting to see what was contained in the complete text of the law, which has not been released to the public.

But it was already clear the talk of war in the proposed law was unlikely to soothe public opinion in Taiwan.

"It won't win them friends," said Lee Shangren, a policy director of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, which supports moves to Taiwanese independence. "This law will create disquiet here because it's opposed to Taiwan's democratic evolution, not just independence."