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2004-01-01 16:28:22

    Taipei, Jan. 1 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian urged mainland China Thursday to work hand-in-hand with Taiwan in pursuing true security and permanent peace. "Our greatest aspiration remains to be able to work hand-in-hand with the people on the other side of the Taiwan Strait and, together, obtain the perhaps intangible but most precious award for peace," Chen said in his New Year's Day address.

    In the speech delivered at a New Year gathering of senior officials and representatives from all walks of life held in the Presidential Office, Chen, who is seeking a second term, also urged mainland Chinese leaders to accept the outcome of Taiwan's presidential election to be held on March 20. "As long as China is willing to accept the democratic choice made by the people of Taiwan in the upcoming presidential election, leaders of both Taiwan and China will have a historic opportunity to demonstrate their wisdom in creating a brand-new vision for economic cooperation and political reconciliation across the Strait," Chen said.

    Over the past year, he went on, both Taiwan and China have suffered the impact of the SARS outbreak, posing a serious risk to peoples' lives and welfare. "The government and leaders on both sides of the Strait should share a common understanding that the security, happiness and well-being of our peoples are the highest values," Chen said.

    Noting that the peoples on both sides descend from common ancestors and share a similar cultural heritage and historical background, Chen said the two sides should seek mutual understanding and cooperation. "The democratic and economic accomplishments of the 23 million people of Taiwan are not only the pride and hallmark of all Chinese societies but also a valuable experience that can be shared by both our peoples," Chen said.

    Stressing that Taiwan has never relinquished its pursuit of freedom, democracy, and human rights, Chen said over the past three years, the Taiwanese people have written a new chapter in Taiwan's history, documenting the peaceful transfer of political power. "The world has recognized our democratic achievements, bestowing upon us numerous international awards and honors for our contribution to human rights and freedom," Chen said.

    He further said the people of Taiwan want stability and hope for peace. "This is a natural reflection of rights endowed to citizens and, furthermore, represents our commitment and responsibility to future generations."

    Chen reaffirmed his determination to hold a referendum on the day of the March 20 presidential election to strengthen Taiwan's democratization and to offer a venue for the people of Taiwan to express their feelings about Beijing's deployment of hundreds of missiles against Taiwan. "No one has the right to demand that we accept military threat as part of life. It would be an even bigger mistake to interpret, in any way, efforts by the Taiwanese people to realize democracy and maintain peace as some kind of 'provocation,'" Chen said in his address.

    Chen repeated the "five noes" pledge made in his inaugural speech in 2000, but stressed it was attached to a precondition that Beijing shows no intention to use military force against Taiwan. "In my inaugural address, I declared very clearly the contents and preconditions of the 'Five Noes.' That is my pledge as well as the common wish of the majority of the people," Chen said, adding that over the past three years, with utmost sincerity and goodwill, his administration has made strenuous efforts in creating positive environment for cross-strait relations, based on the principles of reconciliation, cooperation, and peace. "Despite the absence of a reciprocal response from China, we have consistently taken the approach of a 'firm position and pragmatic advancement' in the continuous promotion of cultural, economic and political interaction," Chen said.

    In his speech, Chen also vowed to defend national sovereignty and dignity, stressing: "Our country is not, by any definition, a local government or special administration region of another country."

    On the domestic affairs, Chen said his administration has managed to deliver on its promise of providing a better life for the people of Taiwan. "One year ago today, I proposed 'one goal and two tasks' as targets for our joint effort. The goal was to provide a better life for the people; the two tasks, to revive the economy and to institute comprehensive reforms. The resolve of this administration and the determination of all the people over the past year is why Taiwan can now proudly hand in a gratifying report card," Chen said.

    He also vowed to push for social justice and equal opportunity while boosting sustainable national development and improvement of quality of life in the new year.

(By Sofia Wu)


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