Tuesday, May 11, 2004

From combined dispatches

BEIJING — Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao will consider a proposal to introduce legislation mandating eventual reunification with rival Taiwan, the semiofficial China News Service said in a report available yesterday.

The adoption of such a law, Chinese analysts said, would legally bind Chinese leaders to their pledge to order the 2.5-million-strong People’s Liberation Army to attack the self-ruled, democratic island if it formally declares statehood.

In a meeting with ethnic-Chinese people in Britain, Mr. Wen heard a proposal from 76-year-old Shan Sheng that China’s parliament should draft and adopt a reunification law to prevent Taiwan from edging toward independence, the China News Service said.

“Your view on reunification of the motherland is very important, very important. We will seriously consider it,” Mr. Wen was quoted as saying.

Beijing has considered Taiwan a breakaway province that must be returned to the fold, by force if necessary, since their split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Reunification “is more important than our lives,” Mr. Wen told Chinese Embassy staff in London on Sunday.

“I deeply believe that one day Taiwan will return to the embrace of the motherland. This is a historical inevitability that cannot be blocked by any force,” Mr. Wen said.

Beijing has warned of war if Chen Shui-bian, the president of Taiwan, who was re-elected in March, formally declares independence.

Beijing also faces demands for democratic independence in Hong Kong, which became an autonomous territory under Beijing in 1997.

Yesterday, the Hong Kong government announced a proposal to give the territory what it called a more representative government, including an expansion of the elite committee that picks the territory’s leader.

But critics were skeptical of the government report and charged that officials were simply ignoring popular hopes for direct elections.

The report said the 800-member pro-Beijing committee that chose Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa can be enlarged to increase the range of professional and community representatives in the next election, but gave no specifics.

Hong Kong residents had demanded the right to directly elect their next leader in 2007 and all lawmakers in 2008, but China’s most powerful legislative panel has ruled that out.

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