Kyodo News Report


European Parliament leader calls Taiwan democratic country

Tuesday March 16 2004

Beijing (Kyodo) -- The head of a visiting European Parliament delegation said Tuesday she supports Taiwan's first-ever referendum this Saturday, calling the self-governing island a "democratic country."

Elly Plooij-Van Gorsel, chairwoman of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the People's Republic of China, made the pro-Taiwan comments at a press conference following the delegation's two-day meeting with Chinese legislators.

"In my view, Taiwan can do that," Plooij said, referring to the referendum, to be held alongside presidential elections, on boosting defenses against Chinese missiles arrayed at the island. "They are a democratic country. Of course China doesn't want to say it is, but in essence it is."

"The government has been chosen in a democratic way by its own people, so what can you say about it," Plooij said.

According to a European Union spokeswoman in Beijing, Plooij, of the Netherlands, does not speak for the European Parliament, though the parliament sent her and 15 other people on this month's mission to Beijing. The delegation witnessed its first Chinese National People's Congress (NPC) session on Sunday and met with the NPC's E.U. Friendship group.

Plooij also said she was aware of Beijing's one-China policy and its view of Taiwan as a breakaway province.

Most foreign leaders visiting China say they support the one-China policy and hedge on detailed comments about Taiwan's status.

As a member of the Liberal Party in the Netherlands and having visited Taiwan, Plooij said she and Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party were "one family."

She cautioned that the referendum, which Beijing views as a provocative step towards independence, could increase regional tensions, but expected eventual stability.

"Before the election, China makes a lot of rumors and noise, but after the election it goes down and the situation will become stable," she said.