Taiwan: Chinas anti-secession law targets Taiwan
Plans for the law, unveiled by state media on Friday, reflected deep concern among Chinese leaders over the "splittist" policies of Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan president, said analysts.
However, Taipei officials denounced the planned legislation as a threat to relations across the Taiwan Strait and to regional security.
"China's plan to initiate the anti-secession law is a move aimed at changing the status quo and a preparation for using force against Taiwan", said Joseph Wu, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, the body responsible for Taiwan's policy toward China.
Beijing, which backs its claim to sovereignty over Taiwan with threats of war, says Mr Chen is working to formalise the island's five-decade separation from the mainland.
Mr Chen, who says Taiwan's "Republic of China" state is already independent and sovereign, has promised to retain its formal links with the mainland but has pushed policies emphasising the democratic island's separate identity.
Chinese academics have called on Beijing to use legislation to counter Mr Chen's plans for constitutional reform which Beijing fears could amount to a formal declaration of Taiwanese independence. Liu Guoshen of the Taiwan Research Institute at China's Xiamen University, said Beijing was committed to "peaceful reunification" and that legislation would create a clearer framework for relations.
"The Chinese mainland's policy toward Taiwan has not changed; this anti-secession law will more effectively restrain any moves by the Taiwanese side to unilaterally change the status-quo," Prof Liu said.
But, George Tsai of the Institute of International Relations in Taipe,i said the legislation could anger people in Taiwan and fuel support for pro-independence hardliners in the ruling Democratic Progressive party and the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
Much depends on the content of the law, which remains unclear. State media said only it would not apply to Hong Kong or Macau, over which China already exercises sovereignty.
The decision to call it an "anti-secession law" rather than the "unification law" urged by some academics suggests it may be conservative in approach.
However, any legal framework could make it harder for Chinese leaders to be flexible on an issue that already arouses fierce nationalist passions.
The law may also have implications for regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet, where Beijing has long suppressed even peaceful calls for independence or greater autonomy.
Beijing has moved ahead with the law despite relief at the failure of Mr Chen's DPP to win a majority in Taiwan's legislative election this month, a result that Chinese officials said showed voters did not back his separatist policies.