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No Plans For Referendum on Independence, Says Taiwan - 2002-08-08

Taiwan says it will not hold a referendum on independence unless forced to do so by China. But Chinese media and scholars continue to lash out against Taiwan's president.

Taipei's Mainland Affairs Council says in a policy paper that the government is preparing legislation for a vote on possible independence. The statement, released Thursday, says the legislation would not be used and a referendum would not be held unless Beijing tries to force Taiwan to unify with the mainland under what is called the one-country-two-systems formula.

China has used this model to reclaim Hong Kong and Macao, both former colonies of European nations.

Thursday's policy paper indicates that Taipei is trying to backpedal further from provocative remarks by Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian. Mr. Chen said in a speech Saturday that there is one country on either side of the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing's anger toward Mr. Chen, however, shows no signs of abating. State media Thursday say that Mr. Chen's actions fool no one, and he continues to try to split China.

Liu Guoshen, an expert on Taiwan at Xiamen University in China's Fujian province, explained why Beijing's fury is not likely to subside.

Mr. Liu said Taipei's policy paper distorts the reality of relations across the Taiwan Strait. He said Beijing wants only to hold talks with Taipei, to work toward a mutually acceptable solution for reunification.

Mr. Liu also called Taipei's recent clarifications about Mr. Chen's speech Saturday confusing and misleading. He said Mr. Chen's comment about Taiwan walking down its own road is insulting, because it implies that only Taiwanese people care about human rights and freedom.

Mr. Liu said the mainland also sees its future as one of greater democracy, and Mr. Chen's remarks reflect a war mentality. He added that all of Mr. Chen's comments prove that he does not regard Taiwan as part of China, and wants to divide the two.

China and Taiwan have had separate governments since 1949, when the Nationalists fled the mainland following their defeat by Communist troops. China considers Taiwan its territory, and has threatened to attack the island if it declares formal independence, or drags its feet on unification.

Some analysts speculate that Mr. Chen made the speech in an effort to push China to revive talks. The two sides have been at impasse since 1999.