by Antoaneta Bezlova
(IPS) BEIJING -- China's parliament adopted a highly controversial anti-secession bill Monday that aims to curb Taiwan's moves toward independence by threatening the use of force.
Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said China would brook no dissent or 'foreign interference' on its claims of sovereignty over the island but stopped short of revealing what kind of 'non- peaceful means' Beijing would employ should Taiwan cross the line of independence.
'This law is not a bill of war but one for the peaceful reunification of the motherland,' Wen told reporters at a press conference. 'It is to contain and oppose Taiwan's separatist forces. Only by containing and opposing Taiwan's separatist forces can the Taiwan Strait have peace.'
He was speaking after the end of the annual session of China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), which on Monday passed the controversial law.
The NPC ratified the anti-secession law with an overwhelming vote of 2,896 - 0, the state news agency 'Xinhua' reported. It said Chinese President Hu Jintao signed a presidential order for the immediate promulgation of the law during the same session Monday. The law becomes effective immediately.
The law, which has raized the stakes in the Taiwan Straits, gives China's communist-led government the mandate to use 'non-peaceful means' should 'Taiwan secede from China under any name or by any means.'
The "non-peaceful means" were described by premier Wen Jiabao as a "last resort" but he made clear that efforts by Taiwan to formalise a separate identity from the mainland could trigger a military response.
'There is only one China in the world,' Wen said. 'The fact that mainland China and Taiwan haven't been reunified yet, hasn't changed in the slightest the status quo -- which is that both the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China. China's sovereignty and territorial integrity brook no division.'
References to the 'non-peaceful means' in the partial text of the law released by the 'Xinhua' news agency were vague, allowing Chinese leaders to retain freedom in deciding if Taiwan had violated the law.
'In the event that the 'Taiwan independence' secessionist forces should act under any name or any means to cause the fact of Taiwan's secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity,' said the text of the law released by 'Xinhua.'
In clear reference to Taiwan's moves towards independence, China's President Hu Jintao called on army leaders Sunday to step up preparations for a possible war, and to safeguard territorial integrity.
In his first speech to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) after replacing former president Jiang Zemin as the country's top military leader, Hu said national sovereignty should come first.
'We shall step up preparations for possible military struggle and enhance our capabilities to cope with crises, safeguard peace, prevent wars and win wars, if any,' Hu said.
Also Monday, China's parliament approved a 12.6 percent year-on-year increase in the official military budget, making another statement on the possibility of future military conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
China has been vexed by Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's efforts to amend the island's constitution, change its name and hold referendums regarding its nationhood status. Beijing still considers Taiwan part of its territory although they have been ruled separately since their split in 1949 after a civil war.
Despite legalising the right to use military force against Taiwan, Chinese leaders have tried to downplay the military option and strike a moderate and conciliatory tone toward Taiwan.
'This law is meant to strengthen and promote cross-straits relations,' Wen told the press. 'It is not targeted against the people of Taiwan.'
'So long as there is a glimmer of hope for peaceful reunification, we will exert our utmost to make it happen rather than give it up,' he added.
But reactions across the Taiwan Strait have been of opposition and anger. Over 90 percent of Taiwanese oppose the use of force to resolve the sovereignty issue, a poll carried by the Institute of National Policy Research in early March revealed.
President Chen Shui-bian has called on Taiwan's people to take to the streets in great numbers for a rally on Mar. 26 to protest against the mainland's anti-secession law. Speaking at a congress of his Democratic Progressive Party on Saturday, Chen said the law would only cause Taiwan and the mainland to separate further.
The promulgation of the law comes at an awkward time as recent months have seen the easing of political tensions between Taiwan and China. In January, the first direct air links -- since 1949 -- between the mainland and Taiwan allowed Chinese and Taiwanese businessmen to travel between the two places for the Spring Festival which marked the start of the Lunar New Year.
The United States has condemned the passage of the law as something that stokes the fire of instability, instead of contributing towards recent trends in the warming of cross-strait relations. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the legislation is 'unwelcome.'
'Clearly it raises tensions. And it's not necessary or a good thing to raise tensions,' she told 'ABC Television' Sunday, one day before she was to depart for a tour of East Asia that was to include a stop in Beijing.
March 14, 2005 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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