Beijing ready to respond to independence movement A mainland official yesterday said Beijing was prepared to respond to an escalating independence movement in Taiwan, but stopped short of saying whether military means would be used. Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Li Weiyi made the statement in response to questions about Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's plans to scrap the island's National Unification Council and its guidelines. The move is seen by the mainland as a step towards independence. Mr Li said Mr Chen's plan was a dangerous signal that the Taiwanese independence and secession movement had escalated. If the 'Taiwan leader' insisted on going it alone, he would damage cross-strait ties and ultimately hurt the interests of Taiwan's people. Asked by Taiwanese reporters if the mainland would deal with the situation through non-peaceful means, or end communication with the island, Xinhua quoted Mr Li as saying: 'We are closely following the development and are prepared to react to any possible complex situation.' He also said the mainland would do its best to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. But the authorities in Taipei hit back yesterday with accusations of their own, saying the mainland had changed the cross-strait status quo by deploying more than 700 missiles targeting the island, and enacting the Anti-Secession Law in March last year. 'The Taiwan Affairs Office claimed that scrapping the National Unification Council was a dangerous signal of Taiwan independence. 'But China's enactment of the Anti-Secession Law is even more dangerous,' Mainland Affairs Council vice-chairman Liu Teh-hsun said. Mr Chen has defied repeated warnings from the US and opposition politicians over his plans for the council and may announce the body's abolition before the end of the month. Opposition legislators warned yesterday that if Mr Chen went ahead, they would be forced to counter with a series of actions, including initiating a motion to unseat Mr Chen. They could also boycott the legislative session to indefinitely stall various government bills in the legislature. Meanwhile, mainland tourism officials said Beijing was pushing ahead with attempts to open up tourism to Taiwan, and they were waiting for the islands' officials to expedite the arrangement. The Taiwan Affairs Office announced in May that it planned to allow mainlanders to visit the island. A mainland delegation, headed by a top tourism official, visited the island in November to pave the way for the arrangement. Liu Kezhi , the National Tourism Administration's promotions director, said the mainland would continue to send tourism officials and industry experts to the island. They would attend a tourism exhibition in Taiwan in November and would invite Taiwan's tourism industry to Xiamen in September.