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President Chen condemns Hong Kong-style unification plan

Saturday, July 14, 2001

Jason Blatt in Taipei and Agence France-Presse

In one of his strongest attacks on China since taking office last year, Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian yesterday condemned as outrageous Beijing's offer to reunify under a Hong Kong-style "one country, two systems" formula.

Mr Chen's remarks came after Vice-Premier Qian Qichen issued a seven-point plan on the model in a meeting in Beijing on Wednesday with a delegation from Taiwan's pro-reunification New Party.

Mr Qian said Taiwan could continue using its own currency, as well as maintain its status as a separate Customs territory, its governmental structure and armed forces. He also said public monies from Taiwan would remain on the island, that Beijing would guarantee private property rights and grant Taiwan full autonomy for all of its political appointments.

Mr Qian did not drop the option of using force to reunify with Taiwan, but he stressed Beijing wanted a peaceful reunification.

Beijing has in the past offered to let Taiwan maintain its own armed forces and enjoy even more autonomy than Hong Kong or Macau if it accepts the "one country, two systems" policy.

But Mr Qian's comments marked the first time that a Chinese leader had been so specific about Beijing's terms and conditions. Mr Chen rejected the offer as several opinion polls, conducted by independent media organisations, purportedly showed that one-third of Taiwanese supported "one country, two systems".

"It's really distressing that some people don't understand the context of 'one country, two systems' and even entertain fantasies about it," Mr Chen said. "To the people of Taiwan, the context of the so-called 'one country, two systems' recently proffered by Beijing really amounts to outrageous ideas and demonstrates once again that the Chinese communist authorities do not understand the true thoughts of Taiwan's 23 million people.

"It's as if one day, your neighbour suddenly runs into your house and sordidly declares, 'I want to take over your house. But I can permit you to live here and continue to use some of the furniture'," said Mr Chen.

"The irrational neighbour now wants to buy us and we even have to get their permission for what we want to do. Nobody would be able to accept that."

He said Beijing was trying to "Hong Kong-ise" Taiwan by constantly pushing its proposal. "Taiwan is different from Hong Kong," he said. "The people of Taiwan can elect their own president through a democratic process. The chief executive of Hong Kong needs an imperial order from the Beijing Government, and Beijing can even sack the chief executive at any time."

Taipei officials also dismissed the offer. "They are all rights already enjoyed by the Taiwanese people. We do not need such an offer from the communists," said an official of the cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council.