China cuts official contact with Taiwan

China yesterday confirmed ending its communication mechanism with Taiwan since the island's President Tsai Ing-wen was sworn into office last month.

This confirmation came from Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) in a statement after Taipei on Friday said it used the mechanism to protest to Beijing against Cambodia's deportation to China of 25 Taiwanese involved in mainland fraud cases. China and Taiwan have an agreement not to extradite each other's people.

"Because the Taiwan side has not acknowledged the 1992 consensus, this joint political basis for showing the one-China principle, the cross-Taiwan Strait contact and communication mechanism has already stopped," TAO spokesman An Fengshan was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.

He was referring to a tacit agreement in 1992 between the two sides that there is one China with each side having its own interpretation of what "one China" means. The 1992 consensus was the basis for cross-strait exchanges, which picked up during China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou's terms from 2008 to last month.

The two sides started a hot line to deal with emergencies last year.

Cross-strait ties turned chilly after Ms Tsai and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party won the January elections. Ms Tsai has not accepted the 1992 consensus.

Yesterday, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the ministry in charge of cross-strait ties, said Taipei "respects the acknowledgement and common understanding of the historical facts" from talks between both sides in 1992. "The government will continue to open the door to cross-strait communication and dialogue, to maintain the existing mechanisms, and call on both sides to work together to protect people's rights and well-being," it said.

Noting that telecoms fraud is a global crime that the authorities from both sides have to work together to curb, the MAC urged its mainland counterpart "not to let political factors hinder the common fight against crime".

Cross-strait experts warned of repercussions.

"If Tsai Ing-wen doesn't change her stance, and continues to indulge in a game of words, the communication mechanism is set to be stopped indefinitely," said Professor Guo Zhenyuan of the China Institute of International Studies, adding that trade and business ties also risk being damaged.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 26, 2016, with the headline 'China cuts official contact with Taiwan'. Print Edition | Subscribe