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Referendum provokes rise in tension
(China Daily by Xing Zhigang)
Updated: 2004-02-26 00:16

Cross-Straits tension may escalate if Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian insists on the holding of a "defensive referendum'' on March 20, Beijing warned Wednesday.

Li Weiyi, spokesman with the Taiwan Affair Office of the State Council, said Taipei's obstinate push for the referendum will do obvious harm to bilateral ties.

"The planned referendum aimed at provoking the mainland will objectively trigger tension in cross-Straits relations and undermine peace and stability in the region,'' he told a regular news conference.

"Whichever excuse the Taiwan authorities may use to initiate the referendum against the mainland, its separatist nature cannot be covered up.''

The spokesman said Beijing will keep a close eye on related developments in the run-up to the referendum alongside the upcoming "presidential'' elections on March 20.

The proposed "defensive referendum'' is widely considered a plot to pave the way for a future independence plebiscite.

Analysts said Chen is also managing to take advantage of the referendum to boost his chances of re-election by antagonizing the mainland.

The referendum plan has drawn intense criticism from within the island and the international community for threatening to unilaterally change the cross-Straits status quo.

At the briefing, Li dismissed Chen's latest peace overtures as deceptive talks to fool the Taiwanese public and international opinion.

On February 3, the Taiwan leader outlined his plan for a so-called "peace and stability framework'' across the Straits, proposing to set up a demilitarized zone, swap special envoys and establish liaison offices between the two sides.

But Li heavily questioned Chen's sincerity, given the fact that he is bent on separatist activities through the referendum under the guise of promoting democracy.

"If Chen Shui-bian was really sincere, he would accept the 1992 consensus to create conditions for the resumption of talks and negotiations across the Taiwan Straits,'' he said.

"Otherwise, he will once again be cheating the Taiwanese people and international opinion.''

Since taking power on May 20, 2000, Chen has denied the existence of the informal 1992 agreement, under which both Beijing and Taipei recognize themselves as a part of China.

Li went on to accuse separatist forces led by former Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui of distorting the Taiwanese people's patriotic uprising on February 28, 1947 to advocate Taiwan independence.

It is both a grave distortion of historical facts and a contravention of Taiwanese people's fundamental interests to describe the event as "a start of Taiwan independence,'' according to the spokesman.

This Saturday marks the 57th anniversary of the February 28 uprising, an armed protest in Taiwan against the ruling Kuomintang government during which thousands of Taiwanese people were killed.

Lee and his followers have been distorting the uprising as "an independent movement of the Taiwan people to fight the regime from outside'' and a fight between native Taiwanese people and those from the mainland.

They are planning a huge rally to form a human chain on Saturday to demonstrate hostility against the mainland.

The event, called "Hand in Hand to Protect Taiwan,'' aims to gather more than one million people.

Li said the February 28 uprising was against oppression and a courageous drive for Taiwan compatriots to seek democracy.

It will be wrong for some people on the island to use the historic event to stir up confrontation among the Taiwanese public and creating tension across the Straits, he said.

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