[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 10:48 GMT
China's last blast on Taiwan poll
Lien Chan campaigning in Taipei county
Opposition candidate Lien Chan campaigned in his northern stronghold
China has returned to the attack on a controversial referendum in Taiwan, just two days before it is held jointly with presidential elections.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said the referendum was in effect a move towards independence and would damage regional stability.

Meanwhile a senior Taiwanese official said China had made a mistake by refusing to negotiate with the island.

The row coincided with a final campaign push by the two candidates.

Some people in Taiwan, under the pretext of democracy, are organising a referendum that is in fact aiming for independence and damages the stability in the Taiwan Strait
Kong Quan
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman

President Chen Shui-bian met student leaders, as he tried to persuade young people to support him as many did when he swept to power in 2000.

He was also boosted by an endorsement from Lee Yuan-tseh, a respected Nobel prize-winning chemist who backed him in the last election but has recently been highly critical of the government.

Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Lien Chan visited his northern stronghold in Taipei county, where he was handed turnips - symbolising good luck - by supporters.

He also has several major rallies planned in the south of the island.

Last opportunity

As well as electing a new leader, Taiwanese voters will be asked to vote in a referendum on defence spending and relations with China.

Chen supporters in Taipei
President Chen is looking to younger voters
But Beijing fears that the referendum will set a precedent for a future vote on independence from China.

"Some people in Taiwan, under the pretext of democracy, are organising a referendum that is in fact aiming for independence and damages the stability in the Taiwan Straits," spokesman Kong Quan told journalists.

Analysts say the news conference was Beijing's last scheduled opportunity to comment on the issue before Saturday's election.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Neither side benefits from provoking the situation
Michael, Menasha, WI, USA

But Tsai Ing-wen, head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said a "sensible" leadership in China would have begun talks with the island.

"Over the last four years, China has probably made a major mistake in not engaging in talks with the people of Taiwan," she said.

"They have this feeling Taiwan is moving away from them. A sensible government in Beijing would think the best way to convince the Taiwan people and government and to bring them closer is through dialogue."




RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific