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Taiwanese Leader to Join Protests Against Chinese Anti-Secession Law

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian says he will take part in a planned mass protest against China's newly enacted anti-secession law. Organizers say they expect more than one million people to join the demonstration in Taipei.

The protest in Taiwan on Saturday will target China's anti-secession law, which was approved unanimously by the National People's Congress at its yearly session last week.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian on Thursday said he would join the demonstration to condemn China's move, but he is not expected to give a speech.

The law gives the Communist government in Beijing a legal basis for attacking Taiwan if the democratically ruled island moves toward declaring formal independence.

The United States, among other countries, is concerned Beijing may use the bill to declare war on Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory.

Beijing, however, insists the law is a measure for peaceful reunification. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao says Beijing would use non-peaceful means only as a last resort.

Mr. Liu says the law is meant to maintain stability and check what China refers to as Taiwan independence forces.

Almost daily, Chinese state media run stories about countries, including Tonga and the Democratic Republic of Congo, declaring their support for the law. However, they ignore news of opposition to it.

State news outlets have also neglected to mention that the law may cause the European Union to delay lifting its arms embargo on China.

Analysts say the international community's largely negative reaction has surprised the Chinese leadership. Jean Pierre Cabestan of the French National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, says Beijing should have been prepared for the response.

"When you include in such a law and you legalize the use of force against Taiwan, you can only expect the international community to react in such a way," he said. "The side effects will be much stronger than the openings which may be included in the law itself."

In addition to authorizing the use of force as a last resort, the law calls for the development of tighter economic links between the mainland and Taiwan. This includes the establishment of permanent direct air links, and increased imports of Taiwanese produce to the mainland.