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 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 decision to abolish the council and the guidelines will take effect today.
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.
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.
A statement issued by the office warned that the move would inevitably trigger a serious crisis in the Straits, and destroy peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Chen's decision is an attempt to unilaterally upset the cross-Straits status quo.
"By abandoning the unification council and guidelines, Chen has actually excluded the option of unification with the mainland," he told China Daily.
"Obviously he has imposed the will of himself and his party on all people on the island."
In 1990, the previous Kuomintang (KMT) administration established the council, which a year later adopted the guidelines seeking eventual unification with the mainland.
The council, a subordinate office under the "presidential office," was structured to comprise 32 leaders from both the government and the private sector. Its main job: recommend unification policies to the "president," help the government devise a "national unification framework" and build consensus at all levels of society and among all political parties.
Currently there is no council member as the body has been dormant since Chen took office in 2000 and ended the KMT's 51-year rule of the island.
In his inaugural speech in 2000, and again after re-election in 2004, Chen vowed not to disband the council nor scrap the guidelines.
But last month, he reversed his position and said he was considering abolishing the unification council and the guidelines.
The DPP voted last week to endorse the plan.
Opposition "lawmakers" from the KMT and the People First Party (PFP) have condemned Chen's scheme and are planning massive protests or other measures to counter-attack what they call "a move that goes against the wishes of the people."
The PFP yesterday criticized the announcement, calling it Chen's "breach of trust to the international community, to the opposition, to the people, and to himself."
Taiwan businessmen, who have funded 68,095 projects on the mainland with contracted investment of US$89.69 billion by the end of last year, were worried over repercussions. "I don't understand why he tries to stir up cross-Straits tensions and make our lives difficult," said Tony Cheng, a Taiwan businessman in Shenzhen of Guangdong Province.
The United States, Taiwan's major arms supplier, had also pressed Chen not to scrap the council, fearing this may lead to Taiwan's de jure "independence."
Washington has reiterated that it "does not support Taiwan's independence and opposes unilateral changes to the status quo."
The "national unification council," established on October 7, 1990 by the then Kuomintang administration of Taiwan, is a government body tasked with setting the policy to promote unification with the Chinese mainland.
The "guidelines for national unification" were adopted by the "national unification council" at its third meeting on February 23, 1991, and by the Executive Yuan (Taiwan's "cabinet") on March 14, 1991.
The guidelines stipulate that "both the mainland and Taiwan areas are parts of Chinese territory. Helping to bring about national unification should be the common responsibility of all Chinese people."
The meaning of "one China" adopted by the "national unification council" on August 1, 1992 says that "both sides of the Taiwan Straits agree that there is only one China. However, the two sides of the Straits have different opinions as to the meaning of 'one China'."
The "national unification council" held 14 meetings from its founding to April 8, 1999. It has never met since Chen Shui-bian took office on May 20, 2000.
Source: China Daily