Tsai 'did not reject One China consensus'

TAIPEI • Taiwan's presidential office has refuted claims that President Tsai Ing-wen rejected the "1992 Consensus" in a recent interview with the Washington Post.

It also released a full transcript of the interview, which was Ms Tsai's first with a foreign newspaper since taking office.

The paper published an abridged version on its website last Thursday. In the interview, Ms Tsai was asked if it was true, as some academics suggest, that Chinese President Xi Jinping had set a deadline by which he wanted her to agree to the so-called 1992 Consensus.

In response, she said "it isn't likely the government of Taiwan will accept a deadline for conditions that are against the will of the people".

Her words were interpreted by Chinese state media Global Times as the first time she had officially refused to accept the consensus. It shared her comments on its Weibo account and added, in the same social media post, that her reply marked the first time she had formally rejected the consensus.

China's Cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) also responded to Ms Tsai's comments a day after the interview was published online. It stressed that stable and peaceful ties could be guaranteed only by upholding the consensus and its core meaning that both sides belonged to one China.

"Institutionalised exchanges between the two sides can continue only on the basis of the 'one China' principle," said TAO spokesman Ma Xiaoguang.

The 1992 Consensus refers to a tacit agreement between Beijing and Taipei that there is one China, with each side having different interpretations of what "one China" means.

Beijing has regarded the consensus as the foundation for developing cross-strait exchanges, but Ms Tsai has yet to publicly endorse it since taking office in May.

Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang over the weekend clarified that she was responding only to the part of the question about a "certain deadline set by the Chinese authorities".

Regarding her stance on the consensus, he said she had made her position clear in her May 20 inauguration speech, and he denied that she had rejected the consensus during the interview.

The full transcript released by the Presidential Office contains some remarks not included in the Washington Post article, including Ms Tsai stating that she believes in Mr Xi's ability to make an "excellent" and "correct" decision regarding cross-strait relations based on "all available information".

In the full transcript, Ms Tsai goes into further detail about her refusal to accept any deadline from Beijing, stressing that the government must abide by public opinion because Taiwan is an "extremely democratic place".

"I also believe that they (mainland China) should have that understanding," she says in the transcript.

THE CHINA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2016, with the headline 'Tsai 'did not reject One China consensus''. Print Edition | Subscribe