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Taiwan's Chen sideswipes China for lack of freedom

Written by: Staff
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TAIPEI, June 29 (Reuters) Two days after offering to hold peace talks with Chinese leaders, Taiwan's president took a swipe at China today, accusing it of widespread human rights abuses and a lack of press freedom.

In his first interview with foreign media after surviving a parliamentary vote to unseat him over scandals besetting his family and close aides, Chen Shui-bian appeared confident in his renewed assault on China, which claims Taiwan as its own.

''China is a country with no press freedom at all,'' Chen told a group of foreign reporters visiting Taipei to mark the 10th anniversary of the transformation of the Central News Agency into a national news agency.

''China is a country where human rights abuses are widespread.

It's infamous,'' he said.

Chen, who has been a thorn in China's side, made the remarks unsolicited in an apparent attempt to deflect attention away from his worst political crisis since his election in 2000 ended more than five decades of one-party rule.

Asked if he hoped to mend fences with China, Chen said shaking hands and holding peace talks with his Chinese counterpart were not as important as avoiding turning Taiwan into a second Hong Kong, or a local government, during his watch.

China was the world's number one jailer of journalists and imposes curbs on Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, said Chen, whom China has refused to deal with for pushing formal independence for the self-ruled island.

Asked how Taipei would deal with Beijing, Chen said China could learn from the island's transformation into a democracy from an authoritarian state. Taiwan lifted martial law in 1987.

In Taiwan, television stations and newspapers do not have to worry about being closed down and journalists do not have to fear imprisonment for criticising the president, Chen said.

Efforts in the past six years to depoliticise Taiwan's armed forces contributed to democratisation, he said.

''Parliament and the media can be in chaos, but so long as the military is not in turmoil, the society will not be in disorder,'' he said.

Chen's son-in-law has been detained on suspicion of insider trading. His wife has been accused of accepting department store gift certificates worth millions of Taiwan dollars. Both deny any wrongdoing.

REUTERS SHR RAI2139

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