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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Chinese media lashes Taiwan's Chen
Chen Shui-bian at a Taiwanese National Day function
Beijing said Mr Chen lacked integrity and judgement
China has filled its official newspapers with fresh condemnation of Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian for his suggestion of a referendum on the island's independence.


Chen is betting on the happiness of more than 20 million Taiwan compatriots and seeking to drive them onto a road of anguish

Senior politician Ma Man-kei

The state-controlled papers across the country attacked the weekend comments by Mr Chen that China and Taiwan were both separate countries.

Taiwan officials continued to try to play down the incident, quoting Mr Chen as saying his comments had been misread.

"My comments were oversimplified and may have caused misunderstanding," Chang Chun-hsiung, secretary-general of President Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), quoted Mr Chen as saying at the conclusion of a meeting of party leaders.

The US tried not to get involved in the dispute, saying only that its policy towards China and Taiwan was "well known and unchanged".


Map showing Taiwan and eastern China
  • 1949: Chinese Nationalists flee to Taiwan as People's Republic of China declared
  • 1979: China-US diplomatic ties established after Washington switches recognition from Taipei
  • 2000: Chen Shui-bian elected Taiwan president. Beijing threatens to attack if island attempts to secede
  • 2001: Taipei lifts ban on direct trade and investment with China
  • 2002: Taiwan warns China is boosting military spending and losing patience over peaceful reunification
  • China views Taiwan as a renegade province and any statements by the island's leaders that appear to change the diplomatic status quo are immediately attacked.

    Chinese newspapers were full of quotations from analysts and members of the public that Mr Chen should not have diverged from the line that Taiwan will eventually rejoin the mainland it split from more than 50 years ago.

    But the papers stressed there was no argument with the majority of Taiwanese people, merely the small number of politicians intent on "splittist activities".

    In Taiwan, opinion polls provided a mixed picture. One poll suggested support for Mr Chen's backing of a referendum, another suggested the incident had dented his popularity.

    'Untrustworthy, naive'

    The online edition of the official People's Daily was scathing in its criticism of Mr Chen in an article headlined: "Words show untrustworthiness and political naivety".

    The article said: "Sometimes, it's hard to assess a man's wisdom or sanity until he speaks up.

    "Having said that each side across the [Taiwan] Strait is a country, Chen might feel quite relieved, unaware, however, that he has actually confessed his lack of two valuables to a leader: trustworthiness and good judgement."

    The paper, which is the official daily of the ruling Communist Party, quoted the vice-chairman of the national committee of China's top advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, as saying Mr Chen's remarks were irresponsible.

    Chairwoman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, Tsai Ing-wen
    Taiwanese official Tsai Ing-wen stressed "nothing has changed"
    Ma Man-kei of Macau said: "Chen is betting on the happiness of more than 20 million Taiwan compatriots and seeking to drive them onto a road of anguish."

    He called Mr Chen's comments representative of "splittist activities by a small force" and urged the Taiwanese leader to "rein in at the brink of the precipice".

    Taiwan's top official for China policy, Tsai Ing-wen, is expected to use a brief stopover in the US to reassure the Bush administration that Taiwan's China policy has not changed.

    Ms Tsai, travelling on an overseas tour with Premier Yu Shyi-kun, has called on people not to "over interpret" President Chen's comments.

    See also:

    05 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
    05 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
    05 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
    05 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
    13 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
    25 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
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