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Separatism obstacle to reunification
By Xing Zhigang (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-18 00:00

Beijing is placing paramount emphasis on the fight against Taiwan independence in a bid to crush Chen Shui-bian's desperate effort to push ahead with his pro-independence timetable in the coming four years.

Leading mainland researchers on Taiwan studies agree that cross-Straits relations face more uncertainty and conflict if the Taiwan leader clings to his separatist stance.

Their comments came after the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council issued a strongly worded statement late on Sunday to warn Chen against any foray toward independence.

The move is apparently aimed at piling pressure on Chen ahead of his planned inauguration on Thursday, which will be held although his second term is yet to be confirmed by a recount of the March "presidential" polls.

The island's leader must choose between recognizing that Taiwan is part of China and "following their separatist agenda to cut Taiwan from the rest of China and, in the end, meet their own destruction by playing with fire," Beijing said in the tough statement.

Wu Nengyuan, director of the Institute of Modern Taiwan Studies under the Fujian Academy of Social Sciences, said the mainland is concentrating its fight against the separatist activities, given Chen's stated plan to pursue formal independence.

"Beijing has come to recognize that there will be no reunification between the mainland and Taiwan if pro-independence forces cannot be effectively curbed," he said.

In media interviews following his highly disputed re-election, the Taiwan leader has stated time and again his intention to hold a referendum for the drafting of a new "constitution" in 2006 and enacting the document in 2008.

Beijing views the plan as "a naked Taiwan independence timetable," which will only fuel tension and danger in the Taiwan Straits.

Wu said it is hoped that Beijing's clear-cut and firm anti-separatism stance can prompt Chen to think twice before unveiling radical pro-independence policies in his inauguration speech.

"Compatriots on both sides of the Straits will be benefited if Chen is wise enough to adjust his separatist policy (during his second term)," Wu said.

But Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says Chen is not likely to soften his pro-independence stance.

"Chen has proven to be a diehard separatist member by his obstinate pro-independence push during the past four years in office, so we should not place too much expectation on him (to change his mind)," he said.

Li warned that cross-Straits relations will be severely tested in the coming years as the fight between anti-independence and pro-independence forces is set to intensify.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that the mainland may be forced to resort to non-peaceful means if Chen continues to challenge the one-China principle through his splittist agenda," he said.

Since taking office in May 2000, the Taiwan leader has refused to accept the one-China principle that both the mainland and Taiwan are part of China.

The strong mainland warning, coupled with political uncertainty arising from the recounting of votes, sent Taiwan shares into a sharp dive Monday.

The Weighted Price Index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange closed down 294.36 points, or 5.1 per cent, at 5,482.96.

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