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Taiwan developments closely watched(03/22/04)

    BEIJING, March 22 (Xinhuanet) -- Beijing is closely watching developments in the aftermath of the Taiwan region election while denouncing the island's failed referendum as an attempt to "split the motherland."

    A spokesman with the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council said late Saturday night that the mainland has taken notice of the fact that one side in the March 20 election claimed it was unfair and planned to file a lawsuit to nullify the election.

    "We are closely following the developments," he said.

    Rivals in the tight election are still locked in disputes, with the opposition demanding a recount of the ballots.

    Democratic Progressive Party candidates Chen Shui-bian and Annette Lu led their challengers by a margin of less than 30,000 votes, according to results released by election authorities on Saturday.

    Chen and Lu won 6,471,970 votes, or 50.11 per cent of the total, against 49.89 per cent of the votes, totalling 6,442,452, for Lien Chan and James Soong of the coalition of the Kuomintang and People First Party.

    But Lien and Soong made strong announcements immediately after the election, calling the result into question and saying that "it was an unfair election" and there were "numerous clouds of suspicions" in the run-up.

    The Xinhua News Agency said the coalition of Lien and Soong demanded that all the ballot boxes be sealed and said they were going to "file a petition to nullify the election."

    On Saturday, the so-called "peace referendum" willfully promoted by Chen to be held alongside the election turned out to be invalid because the number of voters that took part was less than half of the total number of the eligible voters.

    The Taiwan Work Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council issued a joint statement Saturday, describing the plebiscite as a "provocative attempt to undermine cross-Straits relations and split the motherland."

    "Facts have proven that this illegal act goes against the will of the people," the statement said.

    "Any attempt to separate Taiwan from China is doomed to failure."

    Fan Xizhou, a senior researcher with the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University, said the referendum failure demonstrated the strong aspiration of the Taiwan public for peaceful and stable cross-Straits ties.

    "It shows the broad masses of Taiwan compatriots firmly oppose Chen's provocative attack against the mainland to strain bilateral relations by means of referendum," he told China Daily.

    Chen's plan to initiate the island's first-ever referendum, widely seen as a plot to pave the way for a future independence plebiscite, has met with strong opposition both within the island and the international community including the United States and France.

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