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Law Stresses Peace Across Taiwan Straits

No domestic law in China has invoked as much outside brouhaha as the Anti-Secession Law.

Critics have said it is unnecessary and inopportune, based on a conjecture that it will be a prescription for war.

Such hubbub has continued despite Beijing's repeated promise that the law is not what people think.

Now the full text of the law has been published for everyone's scrutiny. And any fair reading of the legislation would lead to the conclusion that it is a work of reason and goodwill targeted at peace.

Indeed, as Article 1 of the law states, it was drafted "for the purpose of opposing and checking Taiwan's secession from China..."

Such concern is a legitimate concern for any sovereign state.

It is only natural that a country should resort to force to maintain its national integrity if it cannot be protected through peaceful means.

There is a solid legal basis for any country to reserve that least desirable and least desired option.

By reading between the lines of the 10-article law, we can feel lawmakers' desire for peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits.

Article 5 of the law promises "the State shall do its utmost with maximum sincerity" to achieve peaceful reunification.

That echoes President Hu Jintao's recent vow to exhaust all peaceful means in the pursuit of reunification.

The latest addition to the mainland's official lexicon is that non-peaceful means shall not be employed until all peaceful ones "prove futile."

And the law means it. The commitment to "utmost efforts" and "maximum sincerity" is followed immediately in the law by five measures to cultivate mutual understanding and trust.

Nothing could work more effectively in undoing misunderstandings across the Straits than people-to-people contacts.

The door for official consultations and negotiations is wide open.

Article 7, the longest of the law, lists six categories of issues on which the mainland is ready to engage in negotiations with Taiwan.

They include all topics conducive to the two sides' peaceful co-existence. And the Taiwan authorities do not have to worry about being overwhelmed by a mammoth rival on the other side of the Straits. The two parties can talk "on an equal footing" at the negotiating table, according to the law.

A law on such a topic cannot completely reject the worst-case scenario. In this case, the use of force.

But the law shows remarkable wording. "Non-peaceful means" has replaced the old phrase of "use of force" in this legislation, indicating the law's overwhelming emphasis on peace and stability.

While saying that all peaceful means should be exhausted before opting for the non-peaceful, the law commits the State to exerting "its utmost to protect the lives, property and other legitimate rights and interests of Taiwan civilians and foreign nationals in Taiwan, and to minimize losses."

This again testifies to the official statement that a non-peaceful solution is reserved only for secessionists and their secessionist activities.

Rather than laying a legal basis for pulling the trigger on Taiwan, as some has thought, the law requires the mainland authorities to seek a peaceful solution to the Taiwan question.

Those determined to demonize whatever is said and done by Beijing may interpret the law in their own way. But it is a prescription for peace and stability across the Straits.

(China Daily March 15, 2005)

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