Fri, Mar 31, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Focus on pandas, not missiles: Chen

MESSAGE TO BEIJING In the latest edition of his weekly e-newsletter, the president urged China to dismantle its missiles and use the money to help preserve its rare bears

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) called on China yesterday to use its military budget for panda conservation, saying that such a move might be able to win the friendship of Taiwanese people.

"The Chinese government on the one hand deploys missiles against Taiwan, but on the other hand wants to give us a pair of giant pandas in the hope of winning the friendship of the people of Taiwan," he said. "If China genuinely cares about the friendship of Taiwanese people, why can't they dismantle the missiles aimed at us and use their missile budget for panda conservation?"

Chen made the remarks in his latest weekly A-bian e-newsletter, which is scheduled to be published today.

He said he broached the topic again in this week's newsletter because media reports accused him of twisting the matter.

In last week's e-newsletter, Chen called on Chinese leaders to leave the two giant pandas it wants to give Taiwan in their natural habitat, saying the animals would be happier there.

The president said that he was inspired by a book he recently read, Calling for Spring -- Panda Hutzi and I (呼喊春天 -- 貓熊虎子與我), in which the author, Pan Wen-shih (潘文石), chronicled the 13 years he spent with a giant panda called Hutzi, which had to endure being trapped, placed in a zoo and participating in a breeding program that involved electric stimulation.

The United Daily News, however, claimed that Chen had twisted the meaning of the book. The daily said that Pan was in favor of donating pandas produced through artificial insemination to zoos around the world because the program helped to raise funds for the conservation of wild pandas.

What Pan opposes, the newspaper said, is capturing wild pandas and sending them to zoos.

Chen, however, dismissed the newspaper's complaint, saying that "If it were true, how is it different from selling the animals?"


Meanwhile, Chen called on the EU to continue the arms embargo against China until Beijing improved its human-rights record, abandoned its attempt to use military means against Taiwan and stopped selling weapons of mass destruction to other countries.

Chen made the call while receiving French parliamentarians Michel Hunault, Loic Bouvard and Francois Loncle.

He used the opportunity to explain to his guests why he decided to cease the function of the National Security Council (NUC) and the application of the Guidelines for National Unification last month.

He also called on the international community to respect the right of the Taiwanese people to choose their own future.

"As democracy, freedom, human rights and peace are universal values, the 23 million people of Taiwan should enjoy the same rights as do French people," he said.

While referendums were politically taboo during the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) authoritarian regime, Chen noted that a Referendum Law (公投法) was enacted in 2003 and the first national referendum held in 2004.

The people of Taiwan should have the final say on the nation's future and cross-strait relations and such a right should not be denied, restricted nor should any preconditions be made, he said.

To cease the function of the NUC and its guidelines is to return the free right to choose to the people and it does not change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, Chen said.

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