Hong Kong protests: China calls Taiwan's comments of support irresponsible

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's top body in charge of relations with Taiwan rebuked the self-ruled island on Wednesday for its "irresponsible" comments on the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, and took a swipe at protests that often happen in democratic Taiwan.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has expressed his support for the demonstrators in the former British colony, and last week urged China to move towards democracy.

Since assuming office in 2008, the China-friendly Mr Ma has signed a series of landmark trade and economic agreements with Beijing, but Taiwan has shown little desire for political talks with Communist-run China.

There have been more than two weeks of protests in Hong Kong over Chinese restrictions on how Hong Kong will choose its next leader in 2017.

Fan Liqing, spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said China was "resolutely opposed" to comments from Taiwan about either Hong Kong or China's political system. "The Taiwan side should not make irresponsible remarks about this," Ms Fan told a regular news briefing. "The fruits of the peaceful development of cross-strait ties have not come easily, and need exceptional cherishing. Taiwan should do more to benefit the peaceful development of cross-strait relations, not the opposite," she added.

China and Taiwan have embarked upon different courses of political development, and China respects Taiwan's choices, Ms Fan said.

China had no intention of commenting on Taiwan's political development path and "its effect on stability in society and politics and economic development", she added, in an apparent reference to protests that are a regular part of life on the proudly democratic island. "But we hope that Taiwan respects the choices and aspirations of the 1.3 billion people on the mainland."

Protesters occupied Taiwan's parliament and mounted mass demonstrations over three weeks starting in March in anger at a pending trade pact with China, which will open various sectors in both economies.

China claims Taiwan as its own, to be taken by force if necessary, though the two have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 at the end of the Chinese civil war with the Communists.