China returns "Taiwan for UN" stamped mail to senders

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BEIJING, Nov 14 (Reuters) China, infuriated at Taiwan's repeated bids to join the United Nations, sends back all mail arriving from the self-ruled island stamped with a UN slogan postmark, a government official said today.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan, recognised by just a handful of countries across the world, since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has blocked its successive bids to join the United Nations as a separate country.

Taiwan has been stamping letters and parcels headed overseas with the ''Taiwan's entry into the United Nations'' postmark to press its U.N. bid. The slogan also appears on public posters and on some shop receipts, sometimes along with a picture of President Chen Shui-bian.

''The Taiwan authority preaching 'Taiwan independence' through post services has infringed on Taiwan compatriots' freedom of communication,'' mainland spokeswoman Fan Liqing told a news conference on Wednesday.

''This has seriously impaired the exchanges of letters between people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait as well as Taiwan people's exchanges with other parts of the world.'' The Nationalist Party, Taiwan's main opposition party which ruled all of China before the 1949 Communist revolution, has criticised the postmark as an electioneering tactic by Chen's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ahead of presidential polls in March.

Taiwan media have reported that Chinese authorities demand recipients of letters stamped with the logo, mostly the one million Taiwan businessmen on the mainland, to sign a statement denouncing the U.N. bid to get the letters.

But Fan, spokeswoman for the Taiwan Affairs Office, said they were merely sent back.

''Letters of this kind have been returned according to regulations,'' she said.

REUTERS SV KP1138

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