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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 12:18 GMT
Fierce debate on Taiwan secession law

The new Chinese law giving Beijing the legal right to use force against Taiwan if it moves towards declaring formal independence has sparked a lively debate in the region's press.

While some mainland commentators see the law as putting would-be Taiwan secessionists firmly in their place, others argue that it will ease tensions in cross-strait relations.

In Taiwan, some voices condemn the law and call for international action to contain China's ambitions, while others make a plea for a softly-softly approach so as not to inflame passions.

US fears about the new law are dismissed in two mainland papers. Commentators in Beijing's Huanqiu Shibao tell Washington it should have "no reason to be uneasy".

This law will powerfully promote the development of cross-Strait relations and peaceful reunification
Renmin Ribao

"China does not have any secret schemes, China's military strength is not aimed at Taiwan compatriots," they say, adding that the law is a tool aimed at restricting Taiwanese secessionists and promoting cross-Strait dialogue.

A commentator in the leading Beijing daily Renmin Ribao condemns "US meddling", as well as Taiwanese supporting the island's independence for "viciously slandering this bill, and stirring up a hostile mood towards the mainland".

However, an editorial in the same paper believes the law "is in line with the common aspirations of all the Chinese people, including our 23 million fellow compatriots in Taiwan".

"It is for certain that this law will powerfully promote the development of cross-Strait relations and peaceful reunification."

'New opportunity'

A columnist in the mainland's Guoji Xianqu Daobao similarly believes the law "has provided a new opportunity for the development of cross-Strait relations".

"The opening up of a new situation in cross-Strait relations will no longer only be the distant wish of decent people."

Beijing's China Daily concurs. "Rather than laying a legal basis for pulling the trigger on Taiwan, the law requires the mainland authorities to seek a peaceful solution to the Taiwan question.

A highly hostile action
Taiwan Daily

"Those determined to demonize whatever is said and done by Beijing may interpret the law in their own way. But it is a prescription for peace and stability across the Straits."

Such arguments will do little to convince Taipei's Taiwan News, which views the law as "a clear and present danger and threat not only to the people of Taiwan but also to regional peace and stability".

It calls on the Taipei government to seek "more explicit support from the international community, especially the US and Japan, to protect our hard-won democracy in the face of Beijing's militarism and unilateralism".

It also calls for the arrest of Chinese leader Hu Jintao "for ensuring that the possibilities for a peaceful reunification are completely exhausted".

The Liberty Times in Taipei describes the law as part of "the hostile struggle between the two sides of the strait", urging the international community to take note.

It calls for national unity between government and opposition forces to ensure that "Taiwan only has one voice, only has one standpoint".

'Provocation'

Taiwan Daily views the law as "a provocation towards the national sovereignty of Taiwan, a highly hostile action".

Other Taiwanese papers call for cool heads. China Times urges "self-restraint". "Although we are not happy seeing the Chinese Communist Party formulate the Anti-Secession Law, it depends on how those in power on both sides of the Strait use their wisdom to ease the crisis and open up a turn for the better."

"Taiwan should react in a peaceful, rational way," says Taipei Times. "First, launch an anti-'anti-secession' movement...Enact an 'anti-annexation' law...Hold a 'preventive referendum' establishing the broad support of the Taiwanese people for self-determination."

Central Daily News cautions against Taiwanese parties exploiting the issue for their own political ends, pushing cross-Strait relations "into the mire of a vicious cycle".

A powerful legal line of defence for safeguarding national sovereignty
Wen Wei Po

The Industrial and Commercial Times similarly calls on all sides in Taiwan "to avoid making excessive statements".

"The Chinese Communist Party has shown a lot of concrete goodwill for economics and trade...there must still be rationality and pragmatism driving forward cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges."

In Hong Kong, the Beijing-backed daily Wen Wei Po argues that the law "has provided the Chinese people with a powerful legal line of defence for safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity".

And Ta Kung Pao, also backed by Beijing, says the mainland had "no other choice", in the face of "such vile actions by the US side and the Taiwan authorities".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.




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