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Beijing Condemns Taiwan's UN Membership Rally


China has condemned Monday a large rally organized by Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian. The event was held Saturday to show support for a proposed referendum on the island's membership in the United Nations. Claudia Blume reports from VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

China's Taiwan Affairs office issued a statement saying the rally Saturday in Kaohsiung jeopardizes peace and stability between the mainland and Taiwan. It says Beijing will be closely watching developments across the Taiwan Strait and is prepared to deal with what it calls 'serious situations'.

But Danny Paau, a political science professor at Hong Kong's Shue Yan University, says Beijing's response was relatively restrained.

"As for the mainland, what they are really trying to say is that - we will be calm and on the other hand, we are prepared," said Paau. "That is the message."

On Saturday, more than 100,000 people took to the streets of the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung to support President Chen's plan to hold a referendum on Taiwan's bid to re-join the United Nations. His intention is to apply under the name "Taiwan".

Previously, Taiwan's U.N. seat was held under its official name, the Republic of China. That seat was transferred to the communist government in Beijing in 1971.

China and Taiwan split after civil war ended in 1949. Beijing still considers Taiwan a renegade province, and has threatened to use force against the island if it formally declares independence.

Emile Sheng, a political analyst in Taiwan, says the push for U.N. membership is part of a campaign by the ruling Democratic People's Party to emphasize Taiwan's separateness from China ahead of next year's presidential elections.

"The ruling party, the DPP, wants Taiwan to be independent and also to declare it publicly so that the world knows that Taiwan is an independent country and has nothing to do with China," said Sheng. "So, I think entering the United Nations is really just a tool. It is really a way of mobilizing their own voters and making this a campaign issue."

Only a handful of small nations recognize Taiwan as a separate country from China. The United States supports Beijing's so-called "one China" policy, but is committed to helping protect Taiwan in the event of an attack on the democratically-ruled island.

On Monday, Beijing also protested proposed U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan. Last week, the Pentagon announced tentative plans to sell a dozen anti-submarine aircraft and more than 140 anti-aircraft missiles to Taiwan, for about $2.2 billion. Beijing urged Washington to cancel the deal and end its ties with the island's military, calling it a rude interference in China's internal affairs.

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