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China Again Warns Taiwan Against Apparent Moves Towards Independence


China is warning Taiwan it will face harsh consequences if it continues to move towards independence. The latest threat came after Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian this week said he would pursue plans for a new constitution for the self-governed island, which China claims as part of its territory.

The warning from the mainland government's Taiwan Affairs Office on Friday was stern as usual. Office spokesman Li Weiyi spoke at a briefing and lashed out at the Taiwan president, saying anyone who makes an enemy of his own people will "reap a bitter harvest."

"We will not allow Taiwan to pursue independence activities," he said. "We will not tolerate anyone using any way to separate Taiwan from China."

Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949, when Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek fled there after losing control of the mainland to communist rebels under Mao Zedong.

The communist government has called for eventual reunification, and has regularly interpreted plans by Mr. Chen - such as the drawing up of a new constitution - as steps towards a formal declaration of independence.

Last year, the Chinese government enacted a measure legalizing the use of force if necessary to establish control over the democratically ruled island. The law, combined with a military buildup on the mainland, has raised international concern about a possible war across the Taiwan Strait.

The United States, which has pledged to help Taiwan defend itself, has called on both sides not to do anything that would change the status quo.

Beijing has portrayed its intentions as peaceful, and has used new trade deals and the establishment of periodic cross-strait flights to try to win the Taiwanese people's support for reunification.

In the last year, the mainland has also hosted the Taiwan president's political opponents - moves that foreign observers interpreted as further attempts by Beijing to undermine Mr. Chen and his pro-independence agenda.

In a move meant to balance their approach, Chinese officials - while issuing threats to Taiwan - also said they had selected two panda bears to give to the island as a gesture of good will.

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