Sat, Nov 29, 2003 - Page 3 News List

China is `seriously concerned' about referendum law

AP , BEIJING

China said yesterday it was "seriously concerned" about Taiwan's passage of a referendum law, but didn't say what action it might take over the legislation, which officials earlier warned might lead to war.

A statement by China's Taiwan Affairs Office said Beijing was "closely monitoring" the situation and warned against trying to use the law to pursue formal independence.

"We are seriously concerned about the situation regarding the `referendum law,'" said the statement carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.

"We resolutely oppose anyone using the `referendum law' to conduct `Taiwan independence' and separatist activities," it said. "If anyone tries to separate Taiwan from China, we will absolutely not tolerate it."

Despite weeks of increasingly menacing warnings from Beijing, Taiwan's lawmakers on Thursday voted to let the president call a referendum on independence if China attacks. An official in charge of China's Taiwan policy was quoted by state media this month as warning against passage of the law, saying: "Taiwanese independence means war."

However, the statement by the Taiwan Affairs Office -- the only official Chinese response so far -- didn't mention military action or any other specific response. Earlier yesterday, state media quoted Chinese analysts warning that Taiwan has risked angering Beijing.

"The referendum law has created a legal basis for Taiwanese independence, which the mainland strongly opposes," the Chinese-language media quoted Liu Guoshen, director of the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University in eastern China, as saying.

Liu was quoted as expressing relief that the referendum law places limits on such votes.

"That suggests there is still a rational force on the island that opposes radical moves to undermine cross-strait ties by promoting independence referendums," Liu said.

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