TAIPEI, Taiwan: Taiwan on Monday rejected a call by Chinese President Hu Jintao for a formal peace accord between the two rivals, saying it lacked any significance.
Government spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey's comments came several hours after Hu told a major Communist Party meeting that Beijing favored a peaceful, negotiated settlement to the 58-year-old conflict, provided Taiwan accepts that it is a part of China.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. The "one-China principle" has formed the basis of Beijing's policy toward the self-ruled island ever since.
In Taiwan's first official reaction to Hu's comments, Shieh said that the Chinese leader's invitation "was devoid of any significance whatsoever."
"We will not discuss peace, unification, or any other issues with a regime that has suppressed the Tibetans, killed its own people and supported the military junta of Myanmar," he said.
Taiwan frequently castigates Beijing for its human rights policies, including its support for military or dictatorial governments abroad.
Emphasizing the differences between the two, Shieh said that Taiwan is founded on human rights and democracy, while China's ruling Communist Party does not represent the will of its own people.
"China is threatening Taiwan with war," he added, referring to Beijing's promises to attack the island of 23 million people if it makes it de facto independence permanent.
Though Taiwan's government once vowed to reunite with the mainland, over the past several years it has emphasized its separate identity, drawing threats from Beijing to use the military option.
Hu warned in his speech that Taiwan's independence forces were "stepping up their secessionist activities," jeopardizing chances for peace between the two sides. He said people in China and Taiwan should work to "oppose and constrain such activities" and offered to work with any political parties in Taiwan as long as they agreed that Taiwan was part of China.
Beijing is particularly worried that with Taiwan's next presidential election due in March and the Beijing Olympics in August, Taiwanese leaders might be tempted to test the limits of China's tolerance. Last month, Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party passed a resolution calling for a referendum on Taiwan's sovereignty.
President Chen Shui-bian has also pushed for Taiwan's entry into the United Nations under its own name, rather than its formal title of the Republic of China, which connotes fealty to the one China policy.
This reporter took the time to explain Taiwan's valid grievances concerning the lack of human rights and democracy in China under the PRC regime, rather than painting an all-too-common loose sketch of the situation that leaves Taiwan's government looking like a stubborn and naïve agitator. One can hardly imagine criticizing Taiwan for being an island that "frequently castigates Beijing for its human rights policies, including its support for military or dictatorial governments abroad."
The only thing we could see that might be worth knit-picking over is this sentence: "Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949." Perhaps the unfamiliar reader would interpret this to mean that the civil war was simply a matter of Taiwan seceeding from China or, even worse, the PRC the same way states in the American South attempted to seceed from the Union during the American Civil War. Perhaps a better sentence would be: "China and Taiwan split at the end of civil war on the mainland in 1949," or, if the writer can afford the extra real estate: "In 1949 at the end of the China's civil war, the Nationalists fled to Taiwan, maintaining there a seperate government from the PRC in Beijing."
These two suggestions seem to better convey the historical reality--although we can hardly claim to be seasoned hands concerning Taiwan-PRC relations If any one of our readers can think of a better line for the press, please feel free to post it in the comments section!