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Sunday, 5 March, 2000, 04:00 GMT
Chinese premier attacks corruption
zhu and jiang
Mr Zhu (left) talks with the Chinese president at the NPC
Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji has said his government must do much more to stamp out official corruption and malpractice.

Mr Zhu told the annual meeting of the Chinese parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), that the government's efforts were inadequate.

"We still fall far short of what the central authorities require of us and what the people expect of us," he told delegates.

Delegates are meeting in the Great Hall of the People
The prime minister also said that China would "not sit idly by and watch separatist activity" in Taiwan, but he stopped short of threatening war.

Almost 3,000 delegates are attending the session, which opened on Sunday amid tight security in Beijing and will last 11 days.

As the meeting began, three protesters were detained by police as they tried to unfurl a red banner in Tiananmen Square.

Corruption investigation

Mr Zhu told the parliament it was important for China to "build a clean and honest government".

He also lashed out at wasteful government spending and lax management.

The anti-corruption drive follows the announcement on Saturday that one of the vice-chairmen of the parliament was under investigation for taking bribes, and would not be taking part.

Cheng Kejie, a former chairman of the government in the south-western region of Guangxi, is implicated in a $66,000 corruption scandal involving the awarding of contracts and protection of smugglers, according to Hong Kong newspapers.

Fountains outside Great Hall
Final preparations are made outside the Great Hall
The timing of the announcement is being seen as evidence that the government wants to convince deputies that it is serious about tackling corruption.

Last month, the deputy governor of southern Jiangxi province was sentenced to death for his role in an $840,000 corruption scandal, and hundreds of senior officials in Fujian province are currently being investigated for their roles in an alleged $10bn smuggling case.

'Arrogance' of Taiwan

Mr Zhu warned in his speech that China would not tolerate pro-independence activity in Taiwan aimed at undermining China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He said China had "dealt a powerful blow to the arrogance of Taiwan separatists represented by Lee Teng-Hui", the Taiwanese president who believes Taiwan and Beijing should be on a state-to-state footing.

However, Mr Zhu failed to say what measures China had taken to fight the pro-independence sentiment on the island and did not elaborate on Beijing's earlier threats of an invasion of Taiwan.

The Chinese people are determined and absolutely able to bring the Taiwan question to an early settlement

Zhu Rongji
He struck a more conciliatory tone when he said "we place our hopes on the Taiwan authorities and even more on the people of Taiwan".

On Saturday, President Jiang Zemin said Beijing would take "drastic measures" if Taiwan refused to begin talks on reunification.

Mr Zhu also told the parliament that there was an "urgent need" to speed up economic restructuring, and that the military should upgrade its technology.

Police checking papers
The authorities have imposed tight security
As Mr Zhu addressed the parliament, police detained at least 17 followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement who were demonstrating nearby.

Reports say the detainees had tried to unfurl banners in several separate protests, but were quickly arrested by policemen patrolling the area.

In his speech, Mr Zhu praised what he called the decisive measures taken against the movement, and said that the government would continue to ban and prosecute evil cults in accordance with the law.

Security has been stepped up in Beijing during the NPC session, with spot checks being carried out on people at Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, where the meeting took place.

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See also:

05 Mar 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Extracts from Mr Zhu's speech
05 Mar 00 |  Asia-Pacific
China casts shadow over Taiwan poll
26 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
New twist in China smuggling scandal
23 Sep 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Corruption scandal hits China
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