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Sunday, 19 March, 2000, 01:52 GMT
Taiwan voters defy China
Chen Shui-bian
Wild celebrations greeted Mr Chen's dramatic victory
The pro-independence candidate elected by the voters of Taiwan as their next president has issued a plea for peace with mainland China.

Chen Shui-bian, who defeated both the ruling Nationalist Party's candidate Lien Chan and independent James Soong in the election, said he wanted to build a constructive dialogue with Beijing.

We should insist on Taiwan's independent sovereignty. This is not our job; this is our mission

Chen Shui-bian
But at the same time, he rejected as unacceptable China's "one country, two systems" formula for reunification and said Taiwan would not follow in the steps of Hong Kong and Macau.

"We should insist on Taiwan's independent sovereignty," he said.

"This is not our job; this is our mission. We are determined to safeguard this land."
In its first response to the result, China said that it would never allow independence for Taiwan, but that it was open to dialogue with the new president-elect.

"There is only one China, and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory," it said.

"We should listen to what the new leader in Taiwan says and watch what he does," the statement added.

Before the election, there had been warnings from mainland China that such a result could prompt military intervention.

Journey of reconciliation

The country's new vice-president is Annette Lu, a former political prisoner and Mr Chen's running mate in the election.

Mrs Lu is a magistrate who has been at the forefront of the campaign against corruption in Taiwan.
Chen Shui-bian supporters
Wild celebrations on the streets
She received a 12-year prison sentence in 1979 for being one of the organisers of Taiwan's first mass opposition protest.

Tens of thousands of jubilant supporters took to the streets of the capital, Taipei, to celebrate the victory, and the night was filled with the sounds of blaring car horns and crackling fireworks.

It is the first time in Taiwan's recent political history that the ruling Nationalist Party, which has been in power for more than half a century, has lost control of the presidency.

Many voters appear to have turned their backs on the ruling party because of a belief that it was guilty of corruption and nepotism.

This election demonstrates clearly the strength and vitality of Taiwan's democracy

President Bill Clinton
In a victory speech, Mr Chen invited senior figures in the Chinese government to visit Taiwan and also expressed the hope that, before his inauguration, he would have the opportunity to make a journey of reconciliation to Beijing.

He said he wanted to discuss the possibility of lifting a decades-old ban on direct trade, transport and investment links.

"Our goal is reconciliation with good intentions, active co-operation and eternal peace," he added.

Word from Washington

US President Bill Clinton has congratulated Mr Chen on his victory.

"This election demonstrates clearly the strength and vitality of Taiwan's democracy," he said in a statement released by the White House.
Mr Chen is seeking reconciliation
Mr Chen is seeking reconciliation
Mr Clinton went on to suggest that the result provided a fresh opportunity for the two sides to resolve their differences peacefully through dialogue.

Japan reacted cautiously, saying it would keep a close eye the situation.

"There is a possibility that tensions between China and Taiwan will grow," a foreign ministry source was quoted as saying, adding that Tokyo would encourage both sides to exercise restraint.

Results of the Taiwan election showed the Nationalist Party's candidate, Vice-President Lien Chan, trailing in third place, behind the independent, Mr Soong.

Mr Lien said that he had "failed" and apologised to voters for not working hard enough.

Fighter jets

Hong Kong newspapers reported on Saturday that China's armed forces were on high alert, and that commanders had scrambled fighter jets shortly before polls opened.

The Taiwanese Defence Ministry said it was keeeping a close watch on the other side of the Taiwan Strait.

A spokesman said Taiwanese forces had also been put on alert on Friday.

In the run up to the poll, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji warned that the Chinese were ready to "shed blood" to stop the island splitting away.

A recent newspaper poll in China showed a 95% backing for war from the Chinese people if Taiwan tried to break away.

However, China did not resort to the missile tests and military exercises it used to intimidate Taiwan's voters four years ago.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Beijing
"Taiwan remained a part of China whatever the result of this election"
The BBC's Jill McGivering
"To Beijing Mr Chen is a dangerous subversive"
See also:

18 Mar 00 | Taiwan Election
18 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
19 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
18 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
18 Mar 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
18 Mar 00 | Media reports
17 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
06 Mar 00 | Taiwan Election
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