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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 March, 2005, 16:21 GMT
China PM reaffirms Taiwan policy
Wen Jiabao
Wen talked tough on Taiwan
Premier Wen Jiabao has reaffirmed China's commitment to pursue reunification with Taiwan as he opened the annual session of parliament.

Mr Wen told the National People's Congress a proposed anti-secession law would "never allow secessionist[s]... to separate Taiwan from China".

He also spoke of the government's efforts to address social tension which has resulted from economic reforms.

He said China would aim for 8% growth in 2005 and for nine million new jobs.

Military spending

Delegates burst into applause 26 times during Mr Wen's two-hour speech, which opened the 10-day session of parliament.

"Maintaining steady and rapid economic development is an important issue that the government must successfully handle," the prime minister said.

Great Hall of the People, Beijing
The session will last for 10 days
He pledged to cut all farm taxes by next year and he set out plans for free schooling for needy children.

Parliament is expected to approve a 12% increase in its military spending, which will take official military spending to 247.7bn yuan ($29.9bn).

Mr Wen said that making sure the army "is capable of winning any war it fights" was an "historical objective".

The increase in defence spending is the latest in a series of regular cash infusions to try to upgrade and modernise China's army.

Taiwan's ire

The controversial so-called "anti-secession law" is due to be approved on Tuesday.

China views Taiwan as its territory, and regularly threatens to use force if the island declared independence.

A delegate outside China's parliament building in Beijing.
Security has been tightened in the Chinese capital
But the legislation has been criticised by Taiwanese politicians who say it will set out a legal basis for a possible Chinese invasion of the island.

Taiwan's Vice-President Annette Lu told Taiwanese television the law aimed "to criminalise remarks and actions for Taiwan independence".

She said the bill would make criminals out of those who talked about independence.

China has insisted that the law is aimed at moving towards a peaceful reunification with Taiwan.

A spokesman for the Chinese parliament, Jiang Enzhu, told a news conference the bill was not a "war mobilisation order".

But he warned: "Taiwan independence forces and their adventurous moves have seriously threatened China's state sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Tung's future

The political future of Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, whom the Hong Kong media say is set to retire, is also in the spotlight.

Tung Chee-hwa
Tung may retire
Mr Tung, who is in Beijing for the meeting of the advisory body to the NPC, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, met Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday.

The president told Mr Tung central government "fully approves" of his work.

Mr Tung had "overcome the big challenges and difficulties of the Asian financial crisis and the many changes in the international economic environment and have maintained Hong Kong's stability and prosperity" he said.

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