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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 January 2005, 12:14 GMT
Flying the flag for China - in Taiwan
By Caroline Gluck
In Taipei

In a quiet neighbourhood in northern Taipei, one building conspicuously stands out from the others.

On the rooftop, two rather frayed red flags billow in the breeze - one is the banner of the Chinese Communist Party, the other, the national Chinese flag.

Mr Dai
Mr Dai says he wants to redress anti-China sentiment in Taiwan

The man who put them up, Dai Chung, describes himself as a fan of the Chinese communist leader, Mao Tse-tung.

His business card describes him as the secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party's Taiwan province branch - an office he said he launched after the election of Taiwan's independence-leaning President, Chen Shui-bian, in 2000.

But it was only last month, when he advertised for a secretary in a local paper, that his activities came to the attention of the Taiwanese authorities, who've demanded he close down his operation.

Under Taiwanese law, it is illegal to establish groups which promote communism or secessionist activities.
Taiwan is a relatively closed territory for the Chinese Communist Party, but I believe it's a good time to develop it
Dai Chung

China and Taiwan have been bitter rivals since their split at the end of the Chinese civil war. Beijing still regards Taiwan as part of its territory, to be reunited, by force if necessary.

"Taiwan has had an anti communist party for a long time, and many here are anti-Chinese," said Mr Dai, who was born in Taiwan, but whose parents are from Hunan province in China.

"Taiwan is a relatively closed territory for the Chinese Communist Party, but I believe it's a good time to develop it."

His small office is decorated with Chinese flags and pictures of Mao Tse-tung, and other Chinese communist leaders. Communist Party literature is displayed on tables and bookshelves.

Mr Dai wouldn't discuss how many members he'd recruited, or the financial help he'd received, calling them "internal matters".

But he described the necessary prerequisites for party members - saying they have to identify themselves as "Chinese", support the idea of unification, receive educational training and have their performances evaluated by the authorities in China.

He also wouldn't got into details about what he and his members did.

One event he is known to have organised is a rally, in April 2000 after the election fo President Chen, of six or seven taxis bearing Chinese flags.

Under threat

But his activities may not be allowed for much longer.

The ministry of interior believes Mr Dai has violated Taiwan's Civil Association Act, which says civil groups in Taiwan are not allowed to promote communism or secessionist activities.
its wrong to say if I love the mainland so much, I should move there. If I do that, Taiwan will only be left with independence supporters
Dai Chung

It's written to Mr Dai, demanding that he disband his organisation immediately. Fines of up to $2,000 could be imposed, and staff could be detained for up to two years if the order is ignored.

Huang Li-hsin, director of civil affairs at the ministry, conceded that the group had not applied to formally register with the authorities, but said it had decided to act because the group was publicly advertising its activities.

Joseph Wu, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council - Taiwan's top official responsible for policy towards China - said the law clearly prohibited such groups from operating.

"For cross-strait relations, you understand quite well that China is engaging in all kinds of forceful actions against Taiwan. If they have a branch office operating here, I just don't know what they are going to do," he said.

'Free speech'

Mr Dai disagreed.

"It's a question of limiting freedom of speech... We didn't officially register as a party so I don't think the government has the right to ask us to do anything."

I asked him why, if he liked China so much, he didn't go and live there?

"If I do that, Taiwan will only be left with independence supporters - it will be a paradise for Taiwan independence supporters," he said.

"Because of our love for the mainland, we should stay here and promote unification."

His neighbours also seem unfazed by the row - and the unusual activity in their neighbourhood.

"Taiwan is a free country", said Guo Pin-ruei, who lives across the street from Mr Dai.

"He supports China's Communist Party; I support Taiwan. It doesn't matter."

Many analysts believe even if Mr Dai's office was allowed to remain open - which doesn't seem likely - its impact would be minimal.

In democratic, freewheeling Taiwan, there's little love, or support, for communist ideology.

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