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Reformed churches raise sensitive word in discussion of Taiwan: independence.

The World Alliance of Reformed Churches has broken ranks with other world church bodies in saying it "understands" the Taiwanese people's hopes for the country may include independence, among other possibilities. In a carefully worded statement, WARC's executive committee said it "supports and accompanies the efforts of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan for the people's aspirations for the political future of Taiwan. We understand that this may include self-determination and independence."

Although Taiwan functions as an autonomous country, the People's Republic of China, only 130 kilometres away, regards it as a renegade province, known by Beijing as Chinese Taipei. An official declaration of independence by Taiwan would certainly cause deep anger in Beijing and could even provoke a military attack or invasion from the mainland. Both the Chinese and Taiwanese governments have maintained a One China policy, according to which the island is part of China.

Dr. Choan-Seng Song, president of the WARC and a member of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, made an impassioned plea for the alliance to move beyond its previous stances concerning Taiwan. "After 30 years, we are still repeating the same ambiguous statements," said Dr. Song, a professor at the Pacific School of Religion part of the Graduate Theological Union Berkeley, California.

The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan has long been in the forefront of the campaign of for Taiwanese independence and for respect of human rights on the island Several members of the WARC executive committee were concerned that, in reflecting the wishes of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, the alliance's recommendation should not disregard those of another member body, the China Christian Council.

Dr. Song dismissed such concerns. "Here is a member church struggling under the military threat of China," he said. "We shouldn't have a double standard: if we dare speak against the United States [in resolutions concerning its government], we should speak against China."

The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan is also a member of the World Council of Churches, the world's largest ecumenical organization. The WCC has never mentioned the wish among some Taiwanese for independence."They have been hedging," said Dr. Song, who added that he understood the WCC position diplomatically since the China Christian Council is also a member of the organization.

The Taiwanese people are divided between those who support independence, those who want the country to continue in its current state and those who favour eventual unification with China. The country is to hold elections in 2004.
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Publication:Presbyterian Record
Geographic Code:9TAIW
Date:Sep 1, 2003
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