Taiwan govt pledges to seek citizens' views on reunification

This article was first published in The Straits Times on April 24, 1993

TAIPEI (REUTER) - President Lee Teng-hui, speaking before unprecedented talks between Taiwan and China, assured Taiwanese that his government would not move towards reunification without consulting them.

"If there is a breakthrough in the government's policy towards the mainland, it will definitely be after discussions between the ruling and opposition parties," he said in an official statement released late on Thursday.

"A consensus among the people will be reached before implementation of any new development in our mainland policy."

Representatives from Taiwan and China are due to meet in Singapore next week for the first high-level talks between the two sides since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

The meeting between Mr Koo Chen-fu, chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), and his Chinese counterpart, Mr Wang Daohan, head of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, is seen as a major step in reducing tensions.

Both Beijing and Taipei's Nationalist government say they are committed to the eventual reunification of Taiwan and China.

The Singapore talks have alarmed Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which wants the island to declare independence and abandon the goal of reunification.

Screaming DPP deputies tried unsuccessfully to block Parliament's passage of copyright laws on Thursday in retaliation for the government's refusal to let the opposition party send observers to the Singapore talks.

They said Mr Koo might "betray" Taiwan, and alleged that his late father collaborated with the Japanese during Japan's occupation of the island for five decades until 1945.

Mr Koo, 76, denied the allegation and said he would resign as head of the SEF after the talks because of personal reasons, including old age.