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UighurEurope
14-03-05, 04:51
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's parliament passed an anti-secession bill on Monday that authorizes the use of military force against Taiwan if it declares independence, although Premier Wen Jiabao said the law was aimed at peace, not war.



The National People's Congress wrapped up its annual session a day after electing Communist Party chief Hu Jintao as chairman of the state Central Military Commission, completing a handover of power from Jiang Zemin that began in 2002.


After the meeting ended, Wen stressed the positive aspects of the anti-secession law, including calls for more exchanges with Taiwan, which China claims as its own.


"This is a law to strengthen and promote cross-Strait relations, for peaceful reunification, not targeted at the people of Taiwan, nor is it a law of war," Wen told a news conference.


"Even a foot of cloth can be stitched, even a kilo of millet can be ground up, how is it that even our own blood brothers can't make up?" Wen, waxing poetic, quoted a proverb as saying.


Hu vowed to protect the sovereignty of the world's most populous nation on Sunday, urging the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to "step up preparations for possible military struggle" and "prevent wars and win the wars if any."


China hopes the legislation, approved in a near unanimous vote to thunderous applause from lawmakers, will deter Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian from pushing for independence during his second and final term that ends in 2008.


Analysts say the PLA has no immediate plans to attack Taiwan, over which Beijing has claimed sovereignty since Nationalist troops lost the Chinese civil war on the mainland and fled to the island in 1949.


Wen defended the legislation by invoking the 1861-65 American civil war, which prevented southern states from seceding.


"If you care to read two anti-secession resolutions adopted in the United States around 1861, you will find that they are very similar to each other," Wen said of the resolutions and the anti-secession law.


"In the United States, the civil war broke out, but we here do not wish to see such a situation," he added.


Chinese journalists dropped any pretence of impartiality and broke into loud applause when Wen said China feared no one in its quest for reunification with Taiwan.


"CHAMPION OF THE POOR"


During its 10-day session, parliament approved a defense budget of 247.7 billion yuan ($30 billion), up 12.6 percent from 2004, for a second straight year of double-digit growth.


The session also coincided with the resignation of Tung Chee-hwa as Hong Kong's chief executive. Tung was elected a top adviser to parliament, a face-saving promotion that allowed the unpopular leader to exit after eight rocky years in office.


Deputies offered strong backing on Monday for Wen, who cultivated an image as a champion of the poor, approving his report to parliament on the past year's achievements and the coming year's work with 2,868 for, 17 against and 13 abstentions.


In his report on the opening day, Wen targeted annual economic growth of 8 percent and consumer price inflation of about 4 percent in 2005, and said China would keep in place measures aimed at cooling breakneck credit and investment growth.





"A small economic growth rate won't do because it would make it more difficult for us to create jobs, increase revenue and engage in necessary undertakings for society," he said.

Wen has pledged to exempt farmers from agricultural tax in 2006, two years ahead of schedule, and to expand job opportunities for rural workers, ensure compulsory education for all by 2007 and upgrade the rural health care system.

He has also outlined steps aimed at bridging a yawning gap between China's booming cities and rural hinterland and pledged to build a "harmonious society," recognition that the wealth gap could lead to instability.

Finance Minister Jin Renqing's report -- which proposed a smaller budget deficit than in recent years in keeping with efforts to bring the economy on to a more sustainable growth track -- was also approved on Monday, with a vote of 2,569 for, 241 against and 87 abstentions.

The NPC rubber stamps decisions made by the Communist Party but delegates use no votes and abstentions in votes on bills, work reports and personnel changes to express discontent.

Chinese deputies issued a mild but public rebuke of the government's record against crime and corruption, giving annual reports by the top court and prosecutor a relatively high number of no votes.

In addition to China's yawning wealth gap, corruption tops the list of reasons for widespread protests in China in recent years. Graft is widespread in China and top leaders have said it is a threat to Communist Party rule. Still, efforts to stamp it out appear to have been making little headway. (Additional reporting by Scott Hillis, John Ruwitch, Kevin Yao, Judy Hua, Niu Shuping, Cher Gao and Benjamin Kang Lim)

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