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Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 07:23 GMT
Taiwan candidate rejects Beijing threat
Chen Shui-Bian
Chen Shui-Bian: "New leader must stand up to Beijing"
The Taiwanese opposition presidential candidate, Chen Shui-Bian, has dismissed Chinese army attacks on his campaign.

China's army newspaper on Monday urged the Taiwanese not to vote for Mr Chen in next week's election.

But Mr Chen - representing the Democratic Progressive Party, which has long advocated independence - said it was up to the people of Taiwan, not China, to choose the island's next president.

The Liberation Army Daily had accused him of using "beautiful words to deceive the Taiwanese people".

Addressing a rain-spattered gathering of supporters on the campaign trail, Mr Chen said the island's new leader should be someone who would stand up for Taiwan's interests and not cave in to Beijing.

Some of Taiwan's latest opinion polls show an extremely close race between Mr Chen, Vice-President Lien Chan of the ruling Nationalist Party, and independent candidate James Soong.

Voters undecided

Anecdotal interviews with Taiwanese voters show some people saying they are put off Mr Chen by China's threats.

But others are ready to dismiss the harsh words from Beijing.

Mr Chen has been using a television commercial featuring childhood friends and relatives to try to fight back against China and the Nationalist Party's attempts to portray him as a dangerous warmonger.

With more than 20% of voters still undecided, the effect of the China factor remains unpredictable.

In recent weeks, Beijing has increased pressure on Taipei to move towards an acceptance of eventual reunification with the mainland.

On Monday, as China announced substantial increases in its defence budget, the Liberation Army daily reiterated a warning that it would not rule out using force if Taiwan indefinitely delayed negotiations on reunification.

Although Taiwan unilaterally severed ties with the mainland in 1949, Beijing still regards the island as a renegade province.

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22 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
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