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Week of January 25, 2002

Week of January 25, 2002

The U.S. and China This Week

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CROSS STRAITS: China Shifts Stance on DPP


SUMMARY: (1/24) - The Beijing government has indicated a new attitude towards Taiwan's ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Vice Premier Qian Qichen invited DPP members to visit mainland China as he called for reestablishment of dialogue and enhanced economic contacts across the Taiwan Strait.

"We believe there is a distinction between the vast majority of DPP members and a very small number of stubborn Taiwan independence activists," state radio quoted Qian as stating. Western diplomats and Chinese experts in Beijing said Qian's remarks represent a significant alteration of the Chinese government's position towards the DPP. Jim Canrong of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said, "In the past, we treated the DPP as one entity, but now we're separating a handful of separatists from the ordinary members of the party.

The Chinese government regards Taiwan as a renegade province that must reunite with the mainland. Political talks between Beijing and Taipei have been stalled since 1999 because Taiwan refuses to accept Beijing's demand that it recognize the "one-China principle," that both the mainland and Taiwan are part of one China. Beijing had been courting the Nationalist Party but the DPP trounced it in a December parliamentary election. Beijing has been suspicious of the intentions of President Chen Shui-bian, a DPP member elected in March 2000. Qian reiterated Beijing's backing of the "one-China" principle as being the proper foundation for cross-strait ties and said Beijing was on "high alert" for indications Taiwan was moving toward independence. He urged the DPP to change its pro-independence platform.

Qian made his overtures while speaking to a seminar marking the 7th anniversary of a plan to unite the mainland and Taiwan announced by Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Jiang had called for an exchange of leaders' visits between the mainland and Taiwan to end hostility. Taiwan refused, claiming Beijing's threat to use force to take Taiwan and its attempts to isolate the island internationally created an environment that was not conducive to talks.

Qian cited the entry of both the mainland and Taiwan into the World Trade Organization as a circumstance that could bring about new economic ties between them. "Political differences should not interfere with trade exchange and man-made obstacles which limit economic cooperation should be removed as soon as possible," Qian was quoted by the
official Xinhua news agency as maintaining. He added that the mainland was prepared to listen to the views of Taiwanese "from all walks of life" on improving economic ties.


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DOMESTIC: Chinese Allege Bin Laden Funded Terrorism in China

SUMMARY: (1/22) - For the first time, China has claimed that Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network has helped fund and organize terrorism inside China. In a new report, the Chinese government maintains "bin Laden terrorists and Taliban leaders" disbursed "a fabulous sum of money for the training of `East Turkistan' terrorists" and also sent weapons and other equipment into China. The 15-page report put out by the State Council Information Office says East Turkistan terrorists have created more than a dozen training camps in China since 1998, where recruits learn skills such as making bombs.

China's Xinjiang province is called East Turkistan by some of its majority Turkic Uighur Muslims. Within the Uighur population there are separatists that have committed violence against local officials, police and Muslim elites who support Beijing. China blames Uighur militants for 200 explosions, assassinations and other violence over the last 11 years that have taken the lives of 162 people and injured more than 440. According to the Chinese government, recent acts include a grenade assault on a police station in October 1999, the killing of a police officer and his son in August 1999 and the stabbing of a court official in February 2001. The report maintains that the Uighur militants want to create a theocratic state in Xinjiang but does not offer any evidence to support that claim.

Arrests of Muslims in Xinjiang, mostly of Uighurs, have gone up in recent months, a Western diplomat reported. China claimed between 500 and 1,000 Uighurs were fighting beside the Taliban in Afghanistan. United States officials say a few Chinese citizens have been found there. Chinese scholars maintain that only "dozens" of Uighurs have trained in Afghanistan.

Dilixiadi Rasheed, the Swedish-based spokesman for the East Turkistan Information Center, vehemently denied any assistance for Uighur groups from bin Laden. He said China is making that claim because "they want to crack down on anyone exercising freedom of speech to demand autonomy, by linking them to terrorist crimes." Dilixiadi said some Uighurs went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets, while others have gone there to flee religious repression. But any Uighurs found alongside the Taliban and bin Laden do not represent the Uighur people or their aspirations, he said.

In the report, Beijing denies the charge that it is using the war on international terrorism to commit "suppression," claiming the Uighur terrorists "are brazenly peddling rumors out of ulterior motives." The United States government has expressed support for a political solution to the conflict in Xinjiang.


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DOMESTIC: Tibetan Music Scholar Released by Beijing

SUMMARY: (1/21) - A 34-year-old music scholar serving an 18-year sentence for spying was set free from prison January 20 on medical parole and permitted to fly to the United States. Ngawang Choephel had been in prison for six years. China seldom frees political prisoners before the end of their sentences, but often releases a political prisoner shortly before or after summits with American leaders. U.S. President George W. Bush is scheduled to visit Beijing for a summit with Chinese President Jiang Zemin February 21. Choephel's release was the second such early release in the last month.

Choephel, a Fulbright scholar, taught at Middlebury College in Vermont. He went back to his native Tibet in 1995 to research traditional music and dance and promptly disappeared. After over a year, China admitted he had been sent to prison for spying and "engaging in separatism." The conviction was condemned by Western human rights activists and governments, who claimed China had no serious evidence of such crimes. Choephel was put on a list of names of people the U.S. government was concerned about given to the Chinese government before Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Beijing in July. Activist John Kamm, head of the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation, also lobbied for Choephel's release.

Choephel was released under a previously unpublicized 1990 regulation allowing for medical parole for prisoners who have served at least one-third of their sentence and become ill in prison. Choephel reportedly has hepatitis and pulmonary bronchitis. Kamm said Choephel's release could pave the way for the release of other sick prisoners, including Xu Wenli and Wang Youcai, founders of the outlawed China Democracy Party.


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The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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