BEIJING – In measured but resolute terms, China’s leader warned Taiwan on Friday against pursuing “creeping independence” and said Beijing would thwart any step by the independently ruled island toward declaring sovereignty.
President Hu Jintao spoke as legislators gathered to consider a draft law that would codify China’s legal right to attack Taiwan and seek unification by military means.
“We will never tolerate Taiwan independence and never allow the Taiwan independence forces to make Taiwan secede from the motherland under any name or by any means,” Hu told a preliminary session before today’s start of an annual 10-day meeting of the rubber-stamp National People’s Congress.
Hu accused followers of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian of trying “every means to undermine the status quo” and halt eventual unification of China and the island.
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory. The island has governed itself since Nationalist forces fled there in 1949, when communists took power on the mainland. Many Taiwanese view prosperous and democratic Taiwan as already sovereign, even without a formal declaration. The Chinese government has offered the island autonomy if it will come under China’s direct rule.
Hu acknowledged “tremendous and complicated changes” in Taiwan in recent years, but his speech signaled an apparent end to a recent thaw in tensions across the Taiwan Strait.
A draft “anti-secession law” aimed at the island is among the top priorities as legislators gather for the annual session of the Congress, a 3,000-member body that has little power in China’s one-party communist system.
The draft law hasn’t been released to the public, and its details remain secret. But it’s thought to give China a legal framework to use military force against Taiwan to block independence.
The law also is believed to cast unification as the only way to bridge differences.
Chinese analysts assert that the draft law is designed to maintain a fragile status quo and foil quickly unfolding efforts on the island toward declared sovereignty.
“It’s preventive. It’s not aggressive. It’s a law for peace, not a law for war,” said Li Jiachuan of the Taiwan Economy Research Center, a government-linked think tank.
Taiwanese officials are furious over the anti-secession draft law, saying some of its provisions allow anyone promoting the island’s independence to be tried for treason.
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