Taiwan and China: people must be put first

Taiwan opposition leader &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2002/01/25/26007.html ' target=_blank>James Soong told university students in Beijing on Wednesday that slogans and guns were not the way ahead for Taiwan and China, and called on both sides to put the people first.

Soong's visit to the mainland follows one by Lien Chan, who last month became the first leader of the main Taiwan opposition Kuomintang, which once ruled all China, to set foot on the mainland since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Soong, chairman of Taiwan's People First Party (PFP), urged Beijing to make the right choice and learn from tales of emperors whose efforts to contain overflowing rivers failed, but found success in dredging channels to guide the water, reports Reuters.

According to FT News, yesterday as the government began its lobbying for the meeting, Chen Tan-sun, foreign minister, said: "This will be the best opportunity to examine whether China will match its words with actions or whether it will cheat the international community with more sweet words."

Taiwan was forced out of the WHO in 1972, a year after losing its UN seat to China. Since 1997, attempts to rejoin the health organisation as an observer have been blocked each year by &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/columnists/2002/11/26/39994.html ' target=_blank>Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the island. As part of a campaign to win popular support in Taiwan and isolate its pro-independence government, China told visiting Taiwanese opposition leaders this month that Beijing would be willing to "discuss" possibilities for the island's participation in the global health body.

Mr Chen said remarks by Chinese officials were "either vague or reiterations of the same old rigid stance." Last week, China tried to block participation of a delegation of Taiwanese medical professionals in a Phuket conference on health issues in tsunami-hit areas.

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