A mainland allegation that the Sars issue has been politicised comes after Taiwan refuses its offer of medical supplies Government officials in charge of Taiwan affairs yesterday accused the island's leadership of worsening cross-strait tensions in recent weeks. Li Weiyi, spokesman for the State Council's Office of Taiwan Affairs, accused Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of politicising the Sars issue. 'We in China made an offer to donate medical equipment and masks on May 12, and, until May 17, Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation said they welcomed the donations,' he said. 'But on May 25, [the foundation] came back and said they were refusing our donations. So you can see that we in China did not abrogate our goodwill to our Taiwanese compatriots. 'But it was Taiwan leaders who rejected us.' Mr Li conceded that the mainland's efforts on May 19 to prevent Taiwan from joining the World Health Assembly, the policymaking body of the World Health Organisation, might have irritated the island's leaders. But he said Taiwan's leadership had politicised a health issue. 'Taiwan is not a sovereign state and so cannot join such a group, even as an observer,' he said. 'We in China have accepted donations from many Taiwanese businesses and we just wanted to show our goodwill to Taiwan by donating to its efforts to fight Sars. 'Clearly, Taiwan politicians had ulterior motives. Our good relations are damaged and this is unfortunate.' However, analysts in Taipei yesterday noted that cross-strait relations had always been testy. 'The fact that Beijing humiliated Taiwan at the World Health Assembly angered many people in Taiwan,' said Philip Yang, an associate professor of political science at National Taiwan University. 'That is why many in Taiwan supported the government's decision not to accept the donation. 'The feeling was that if we accepted the donations we would have become a local government under the jurisdiction of Beijing.' The analysts added that efforts by mainland officials to change Taiwan's status in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) would only worsen relations. Early this week, the WTO secretariat - apparently under pressure from China - asked Taiwan to change its 'permanent mission status' to the level of an economic and trade office, much like Hong Kong's status in the trade body. Both China and Taiwan entered the WTO at the end of 2001. Professor Yang said the escalation in cross-strait tensions could also be due to the presidential elections next March, with campaigns expected to start in October. '[President] Chen Shui-bian is lagging behind in the polls and his record hasn't been outstanding, so he is looking for political points,' he said. 'Recent aggressive moves from Beijing only strengthen his tactics and strategy to distinguish the [DPP] from the opposition Kuomintang, which he alleges is pro-Beijing.' Mr Li, of the Taiwan Affairs Office, said his agency would continue to seek ways to donate medical equipment to Taiwan. He said he would encourage Taiwan leaders to 'recognise one China' and avoid 'separatist activities'. Professor Yang said mainland officials should be more subtle in their handling of cross-strait affairs. He said they should soften their tactics against Taiwan in the international arena, as aggravating the island's ruling party would only strengthen its hold on power. 'The deterioration of cross-strait relations only benefits Chen Shui-bian's chances for re-election,' said Professor Yang. 'All he needs to do is to point out the mainland's bullying tactics.'