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The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"An unprecedented democratic hand over of power"
 real 28k

The BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Beijing:
"There were angry responses in the chatrooms of Chinese websites"
 real 28k

Saturday, 20 May, 2000, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Taiwan leader rules out independence
Chen and Lu
Taking power: Chen and Vice-President Annette Lu
Taiwan's new President, Chen Shui-bian, has said he will not declare the island independent during his term of office as long as China does not attack.

In his much-awaited inauguration speech, he also said he would not call for a referendum on independence, nor abolish Taipei's official blueprint for an eventual reunion with mainland China.

But China responded by accusing Mr Chen of insincerity, and said he had evaded the key question of whether he considered Taiwan part of China.

Now is the time to drop confrontations and hostilities

Chen Shui-bian

Mr Chen's speech was seen as an attempt to placate China, which is deeply suspicious of his historically pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Chinese leaders had warned of dire consequences if Mr Chen's speech had not said that Taiwan was part of China.

Beijing rejects Taiwan's de facto independence and demands that it rejoin the mainland communist state.

Taipei's stock market plunged 4.6% immediately after the speech, recovering slightly to a 3.3% fall at the close.

'Drop hostilities'

Taking office in the island's first democratic transfer of power, Mr Chen said he believed "leaders on both sides possess enough wisdom and creativity to jointly deal with the question of a future 'One China'".

Lee Teng-hui: Bowing out after 12 years
In a 50-minute speech outside the presidential palace, Mr Chen said both sides should discuss their longstanding disputes and seek peace.

"The Cold War has ended," he said. "Now is the time to drop confrontations and hostilities."

Mr Chen also said he would promote democracy, clean government and the pursuit of good human rights records.

The Chinese response to his speech came in a statement issued from the State Council's Taiwan office and the Taiwan department of the Communist Party's Central Committee.

Taiwan's new leader
Aged 49
Taiwan's youngest president
Studied law at Taiwan University
Married, with a son and a daughter
Democratic Progressive Party
Won 39% of the vote on 18 March

"He adopted an evasive and unclear attitude towards the key question of accepting the One China principle," the statement read.

"He should not have applied any conditions, he should not have failed to recognise One China and the reality that Taiwan is a part of China, and by referring to One China in the future tense."

It added: "Obviously, his 'goodwill and reconciliation' lacked sincerity."

However it did not rule out talks if Taiwan dropped its demand to be treated as an equal sovereign state, and returned to a 1992 agreement in which both sides verbally accepted the One China idea, while differing over its interpretation.

Open air ceremony

Mr Chen defeated the Nationalist Party candidate Lien Chan in March elections - bringing to a close more than 50 years of Nationalist rule.

A statement last year by Mr Chen's predecessor, Lee Teng-hui, that Taiwan would treat China as an equal was condemned by Beijing and led to increased military tension in the Taiwan Strait.

Mr Chen, wearing a dark suit and a red tie, earlier took his oath of office before the national flag and a portrait of Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China - Taiwan's official name.

Chen taking oath
Chen took his oath before the portrait of Sun Yat-sen
He was presented with the presidential seal wrapped in a yellow silk cloth.

His outspoken running mate, Annette Lu, was sworn in as vice-president.

Taipei's central boulevards were decked in long lines of red and blue flags ahead of the inaugural ceremony, which was held in the open air in front of the Presidential Office.

More than 230 reporters from 45 countries were covering the event, which was broadcast live on several television networks.

State banquet

Only a few foreign leaders were planning to attend a state banquet on Saturday, highlighting the fact that Taiwan's attempts to gain international recognition have been largely unsuccessful.

However, all 29 countries maintaining official ties with Taipei have sent a delegation.

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See also:

24 Mar 00 | Taiwan Election
Taiwan's man of the people
20 May 00 | Media reports
Taiwan leader hails new era
19 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan's top woman
18 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Tense change in Taiwan
18 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan warned over independence
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