Deputy Secretary-General of the Presidential Office Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) yesterday warned Beijing not to apply pressure to referendum plans, saying that interfering with the presidential election will only benefit the DPP and not harm President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
"According to our information, Beijing seems to have learned its lesson from Taiwan's last two presidential elections and may do nothing during the coming presidential campaign," Wu told reporters.
"However, if China shows its anger over Taiwan's referendum policy and threatens Taiwanese, as it has done in previous presidential campaigns, we can only say, thanks for assisting us," Wu said.
Wu also said that although China is one of the major variables that affect a presidential election in Taiwan, many US think tanks and government institutes predict that Beijing will stay silent to avoid infuriating the public.
In 1996, Beijing attempted to scupper former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) election campaign by launching missile exercises. In 2000, China Premier Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基) warned Taiwanese not to support a pro-independence candidate.
Both times China's intervention failed.
"This time, according to our intelligence data, China will neither improve relations with President Chen, which will benefit Chen's campaign, nor adopt tough action to avoid enraging voters," Wu said. "We believe that Beijing will do nothing and just watch."
As to the referendum issue, Wu said that although recent reforms over the past decade have been seen by some as moves toward independence, they have in fact helped to enhance Taiwanese confidence.
"Just as the realization of presidential elections, the amendments of the Constitution and the full legislative election have done, the referendum will be another inevitable step toward promoting Taiwanese democracy."
Wu also said that Chen will not launch a national referendum on the independence-reunification issue during his presidency, saying that Chen's inauguration speech was clear on that pledge.