As the Standing Committee of China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), entered its second day of a review an anti-secession bill yesterday, media reports quoted unnamed committee members as saying that the proposed law does not include a timetable for unification with Taiwan.
Despite Beijing's efforts to keep the contents of the bill strictly secret, sources in Hong Kong said that the bill emphases the importance of "peaceful unification."
"The bill does not mention anything about war, nor does it contain a timetable for China's unification with Taiwan," the sources told the Central News Agency.
The Standing Committee of the NPC held group discussions on the bill yesterday. Although the bill does not mention war, it stipulates that China would resort to "non-peaceful approaches" to deal with Taiwan under "necessary situations," a Hong Kong member of the committee told the agency.
The law targets "any forces or activities aiming at splitting the motherland of China" and is applicable also to Xinjiang and Tibet. The bill, however, will not be applied to Hong Kong and Macau, the sources said.
The Mainland Affairs Council, which has been observing development of the bill, did not comment on the issue yesterday.
"If the bill is passed, it will possibly define conditions in which war could be waged in the Taiwan Strait. This will put Taiwan on a very disadvantageous position," said Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), director of foreign policy studies at the Taiwan Thinktank.
"Taipei may be told not to cross `red lines' set in the bill in order to avoid war. In that case, Taiwan may need to consider drawing its own red lines in interpreting its status quo," Lai said.
The academic added that the anti-secession law could become a counterforce against the US' Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which requires the US to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons and to maintain the US' capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic systems of Taiwan.
"For China, stifling independence activities in Taiwan is more urgent than achieving unification now," said Lin Wen-cheng (
The anti-secession law is more passive than the unification law, which Beijing said it was considering establishing after the March presidential election. The unification law proposal was shelved after China mentioned it in May, Lin said.
"The anti-secession law is less likely to cause a strong reaction by the US," Lin said.
If the anti-secession law clears the Standing Committee, it will be handed to the NPC in the spring of next year for approval. The bill could be enacted in March at the earliest.
"From now to March, internal developments in China and cross-strait interactions would influence the law-making process and contents of the bill ? Taiwan should come up with plans to draw international attention to the law," said Chang Wu-yen (
The scholar urged the people of Taiwan to express appropriate concern about the law.
"At this turning point of cross-strait relations, political parties need to put their ideologies behind them in order to reach consensus [on how to respond to the law]," Chang said.