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REFERENDUM TO MAKE BEIJING MORE PRAGMATIC TOWARD TAIWAN: MAC

2004-02-26 18:59:25

    Taipei, Feb. 26 (CNA) Taiwan's first-ever nationwide referendum will prompt mainland China to adopt a more pragmatic attitude in dealing with cross-Taiwan Strait relations, Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said Thursday.

    Tsai made the remarks while delivering a report to the Legislative Yuan's Interior Affairs Committee on the possible impact of the upcoming referendum on cross-strait relations.

    In the referendum to be held alongside the presidential election on March 20, voters will be asked two questions -- whether Taiwan should buy more anti-missile batteries in the face of mainland China's intensified military threat and whether Taiwan should negotiate a viable cross-strait interactive mechanism on an equal footing.

    As the nation's top mainland policy planner, Tsai will represent the government in a televised debate with independent Legislator Sisy Chen on the second question regarding cross-strait negotiations for establishing an interactive mechanism on March 14. Chen will represent the "nay" side in the debate.

    Noting that the upcoming "negotiation" referendum supersedes the "independence vs. unification" ideological disputes among major domestic political parties, Tsai said the referendum results will help assuage domestic inter-party confrontation.

    Moreover, Tsai said, the "negotiation" referendum will help forge a national consensus on future government policy toward mainland China. "If a majority of voters give a positive answer to the question, the referendum result will become an important element to maintain long-term stable cross-strait ties."

    The referendum will also help narrow the distance between the government and the electorate, Tsai said, adding that no matter which party is in power in the future, the referendum results can serve as a mandate for the government to negotiate an interactive mechanism with the mainland under the principle of parity.

    Since mainland Chinese leaders have on many occasions said they pin their hopes on the people of Taiwan for cross-strait reconciliation, Tsai said the referendum results will force mainland authorities to more realistically address cross-strait affairs.

    Tsai further said that even if fewer than half of the voters cast a "yes" vote in the "negotiation" referendum, the result might mainly reflect procedural, rather than substantive, disputes. But she didn't elaborate on how she reached such a conclusion. Instead, she said that should that be the case, the government will continue to promote the establishment of a cross-strait interactive mechanism based on the principles of "peace, dignity and parity."

(By Sofia Wu)

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