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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314225 Taiwan Referendum (L-O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/18/2004

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=TAIWAN REFERENDUM (L ONLY)

NUMBER=2-314225

BYLINE=KATHERINE MARIA

DATELINE=HONG KONG

INTRO: China has reiterated its opposition to a referendum being held in Taiwan Saturday alongside Presidential elections. Beijing says the vote's outcome could encourage the island to become independent and destabilize relations. V-O-A's Katherine Maria reports from our Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

TEXT: Taiwan voters go to the polls on Saturday to choose a president and participate in a referendum deciding whether to build up the island's defenses.

China, which sees Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory, has hundreds of missiles pointed at the island and threatens to use them if independence is declared.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan says the referendum damages the stability of China's relationship with Taiwan.

/// ACT IN MANDARIN EST & FADE ///

Referring indirectly to Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and his ruling party, Mr. Kong says that some people in Taiwan under the pretext of democracy, are organizing a referendum that is aiming for independence.

Beijing officials have said they believe Mr. Chen will push for further changes to Taiwan's status if he wins a second term.

The opposition Kuomintang party candidate, Lien Chan, is seen as having better relations with China and a more conciliatory approach to cross-strait ties.

But in recent days even Mr. Lien has matched presidential incumbent Chen's strong statements that Taiwan should remains a separate and independent entity from China.

Past elections in Taiwan have been marked by increased threats from Beijing, warning of military action if pro-independence candidates gain office. Political analysts say such threats have never intimidated voters but only encouraged them to choose pro-independence politicians.

/// REST OPT ///

The United States supports the island and self-governance in it present form, but opposes Taiwan independence.

U-S leaders along with their European counterparts have tried to discourage Taiwan from holding referendums that could alter its status. (SIGNED)

NEB/HK/KBK/RAE



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