December 24, 2008 / 4:27 AM / 10 years ago

Costume drama Taiwan MPs look gift pandas in the mouth

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, the two giant pandas from China, are seen in the quarantine area at Taipei zoo in Muzha December 23, 2008. The Panda bears are a goodwill gift from Beijing and the latest sign of improving ties between the political rivals. REUTERS/Taipei City Government/Handout

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Two Taiwan legislators danced in giant panda costumes in parliament on Wednesday to mock the much-ballyhooed arrival of goodwill gift pandas from China which they see as an unwelcome interference by the mainland.

China handed over Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, whose names said together mean “unite,” on Tuesday as relations between the two sides improve after decades of hostility.

China claims Taiwan as part of “one China,” a notion many in Taiwan resist, especially the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that favors the island’s formal declaration of independence from China.

Panda lovers, particularly children and local media, should know the gift comes with political bite, the DPP law-makers told reporters and colleagues with dances and paw gestures at a caucus office.

China has claimed Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. It has vowed to bring the island under its rule, by force if necessary.

“You want people to know the animals are innocent but not to forget their background,” said Kuan Bi-ling, one of the MPs.

Beijing first offered the pandas to Taiwan as a goodwill gift in 2006, but Taiwan’s then anti-China president refused them.

Welcomed by new, China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, the pandas have now settled into their new home at Taipei zoo after a day-long trip marked by song and dance, decorations and speeches.

Last week, Taiwan and China launched direct daily passenger flights, new shipping routes and postal links for the first time in six decades. China has also offered Taiwan investors on the mainland $19 billion in financing over the next three years amid the global economic downturn.

Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Nick Macfie

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