Sun, Mar 27, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Taiwan warned of courting disaster

STATEHOOD Chi Mei founder Hsu Wen-long, who feels business in China has been jeopardized by independence forces, published the comments in a newspaper yesterday

STAFF WRITER, WITH BLOOMBERG

Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp. founder and Presidential Adviser Hsu Wen-long (許文龍), whom China singled out last year as the kind of pro-independence Taiwanese businessman whose investments weren't welcome, warned that Taiwan may be inviting disaster if it seeks separate statehood.

"Taiwan independence will only lead Taiwan to war and drag people to disaster," Hsu said in an open letter published on the front page of the Economic Daily News today, only hours before a mass rally was to take place against China's new "Anti-Secession Law."

"In the 2000 presidential election, I supported Chen Shui- bian (陳水扁), but supporting Chen doesn't mean I support Taiwan independence," said Hsu, the sixth-richest man in Taiwan according to Forbes magazine.

Hsu retired as Chi Mei chairman last June. He remains on the board.

Taiwan's second-largest maker of flat-panel displays used in computers and televisions named Vice Chairman Liao Chin-hsiang (廖錦祥) to replace him.

"I believe Taiwan and the mainland belong to one China, and people across the Strait are all sisters," Hsu said in the open letter.

"We don't play `Taiwan independence,' and because we don't, Chi Mei's development on the mainland will definitely blossom," Hsu said.

Human Chain

The protest yesterday was organized by the Taiwan Democratic Alliance for Peace.

The rally may be the biggest since last year's presidential election campaign, when as many as 1 million people linked arms in a human chain across the country to protest missiles aimed at Taiwan.

On Friday, Chi Mei shares rose NT$1, or 2.3 percent, to NT$45.10.

The shares fell to a 15-week low last June after a report in People's Daily, the mouthpiece for the ruling Chinese Communist Party, criticized Hsu for his pro-independence views and said investments from Taiwan businessmen who share those views weren't welcome in China.

In today's letter, Hsu said he offered twice this year to resign as an adviser to Chen because he has no interest in Taiwan politics. He didn't say if Chen had accepted his resignation.

Old Threats

Attempts to tie allegiance to the communists' "one-China policy" with China investment opportunities isn't new.

In March 2001 China's trade minister warned Taiwan businesses to toe Beijing's line on reunification if they wanted to operate factories in China.

Hsu founded the Chi Mei Group in 1953 with a plastics factory and later expanded into petrochemicals, electronics, frozen foods and health care.

The conglomerate employs more than 10,000 people and had sales of more than US$3 billion in 2002, the year Chi Mei Optoelectronics went public.

Three petrochemical plants and a shipping unit operate in China, according to the company Web site.

China is Taiwan's biggest export market and the most popular destination for offshore investment.

The Presidential Office yesterday gave a subdued response to Hsu's comments.

"Since Taiwan is a democratic country, it's natural that there are diverse opinions," Presidential Office Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun said yesterday.

In a response to Hsu's statement, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said that he can understand why Hsu made such a remark and that the incident only reflects the fact that the Chinese government is beginning to pressure China-based Taiwanese businesspeople.

"As his friend, I can understand why he says such a thing," Lee said.

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