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Chen's separatist moves heighten tension
By Xing Zhigang (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-15 23:38

Beijing on Wednesday called on people across the Taiwan Straits to stay alert for further moves by independence-minded Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian to edge the island towards a permanent split from the motherland.

Zhang Mingqing, spokesman with the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, warned that cross-Straits tensions will not ease unless Chen stops his pro-independence push.

He made the remarks at a news conference in response to Chen's proposal of using the name "Taiwan" as an abbreviation of the island's official title, "republic of China."

"When we just say 'Taiwan,' everyone understands where we are," Chen told reporters on September 3 during his visit to Belize in Latin America.

"The best way to abbreviate the name of the 'nation' is just saying 'Taiwan'."

Chen's proposal was hailed as "a major improvement" by pro-independence activists, who have been pushing for the island's title change for years.

The ultimate goal of Chen's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is to eliminate the "republic of China" and found a new country on the island.

Zhang condemned Chen's overture as a reflection of the leader's pro-independence nature.

"It exposes once again Chen's separatist ambitions," he told reporters.

"Chen has taken every opportunity to advocate pro-independence in various forms as he has never abandoned his separatist conspiracy."

The spokesman also stressed that Chen's move showed "hypocritical deception" in the face of the pledge in his second inaugural speech in May not to change the official name of the island.

"His next steps will be put under close watch... and if he violates our bottom line, we will safeguard our national sovereignty and territorial integrity at any cost," he said.

While promoting the peaceful reunification of Taiwan and the mainland, Beijing does not deny that force may be used in the case of Taiwan declaring independence.

Zhang blamed current tensions in cross-Straits relations on Chen's refusal to accept the one-China principle as well as his unceasing pro-independence rhetoric..

Since he took power in May 2000, Chen has refused to embrace the one-China principle that there is only one China in the world; and that both Taiwan and the mainland are part of China.

Instead, he advocates that the island has been "an independent country" and "there is one country on each side (of the Taiwan Straits)."

At the press conference, Zhang also said related mainland departments have overcome difficulties in arranging further repatriation operations of illegal emigrants to Taiwan as the Mid-Autumn Festival draws near.

The festival, a traditional Chinese holiday for family reunion, falls on September 28 this year.

A group of 178 illegal mainland emigrants to Taiwan were returned home on August 30, the first reparation operation since March.

Media reports have said more repatriations will be scheduled ahead of the festival.

According to statistics from the Taiwan side, more than 2,600 illegal mainland immigrants are still being detained in the island's poorly-equipped detention centres.

Most of them were smuggled to the island by people smugglers, known as "snakehead" gangs.

Zhang urged the Taiwanese authorities to strike hard at Taiwanese human traffickers to eliminate cross-Straits human smuggling and improve living conditions for detained illegal mainland immigrants.

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