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Chen scraps 'unification council, guidelines'
(China Daily/Agencies)
Updated: 2006-02-28 05:41

Taiwan "president" Chen Shui-bian yesterday scrapped a policy-making body on unification with the Chinese mainland and its 15-year-old guidelines despite Beijing's strong warnings.

While the move is almost certain to fuel cross-Straits tensions, it has alarmed Washington and met with firm opposition from within the island as well as overseas Chinese.

Chen scraps 'unification council, guidelines'
A group of people from the Hong Kong and Kowloon Trades Union Council protest in Hong Kong against Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian's decision to abolish the island's policy-making body on unification with the Chinese mainland and its 15-year-old guidelines Monday February 27, 2006.[newsphoto]

Chen announced the decision to terminate the "national unification council" and the "national unification guidelines" after a one-hour meeting with Taiwan's top security agency, the "national security council."

"The national unification council will cease functioning and the budget no longer appropriated," said Chen, of the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). "The national unification guidelines will also cease to apply."

The council has been moribund since Chen took office in 2000, but has considerable symbolic importance. Chen promised not to abolish the council and the guidelines in his first inaugural address.

Chen hedged his remarks by carefully avoiding a repetition of the Chinese term for abolishing.

The decision to abolish the council and the guidelines will take effect Tuesday.

Chen tried to defend the controversial decision, saying it "does not involve changing the status quo."

He said he did not rule out any option for the development of relations with the mainland, based on the will of Taiwan people.

The opposition Nationalist Party reacted angrily today to Chen's decision. Cheng Liwun, the party's chief spokeswoman, said that there was no difference between abolishing the council and causing it to cease functioning.

The Nationalist Party will try to force a vote in the legislature to recall Mr. Chen, she said, while conceding that this had no chance of succeeding because pro-unification parties have a very slender majority in the legislature and a two-thirds majority is needed.

Stephen S.F. Chen, a member of the Nationalists' central advisory committee, said that with "president" Chen's scrapping of the unification council, it would be very difficult for even a future Nationalist government to revive it. Any attempt to do so would look like a sharp shift toward Beijing.

Although Beijing had no immediate comment on Chen's announcement last night, the Taiwan Affairs Office said on Sunday that scrapping the council and the guidelines is a dangerous sign of the escalation of Taiwan secessionist activities.

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