New Year messages: China

Xi won't let anyone make 'great fuss' about territory

Soldiers conducting a flag-raising ceremony at Chinese-occupied Woody Island in the Paracels yesterday morning. Similar ceremonies were conducted at other disputed islands in the Paracels and the Mischief Reef in the Spratlys. China's assertive claim
Soldiers conducting a flag-raising ceremony at Chinese-occupied Woody Island in the Paracels yesterday morning. Similar ceremonies were conducted at other disputed islands in the Paracels and the Mischief Reef in the Spratlys. China's assertive claims in the South China Sea have unnerved its neighbours.PHOTO: SANSHA CITY

China to 'resolutely safeguard' maritime interests; warns of uncertainty in cross-strait ties

BEIJING • China will never allow anyone to "make a great fuss" about its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, President Xi Jinping said in his New Year address, while China's top official in charge of Taiwan ties warned of risks ahead this year.

"We adhere to peaceful development, and resolutely safeguard our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests," Mr Xi said last Saturday.

"Chinese people will never allow anyone to get away with making a great fuss about it," he added, without elaborating.

China's increasingly assertive moves to push its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea, including building artificial islands, have unnerved its neighbours.

China claims most of the South China Sea. Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

 
 
 
 
 

In his New Year address, Mr Xi extended greetings to the people of the Special Administrative Regions of Macau and Hong Kong.

Chinese leaders are increasingly concerned about a fledgling independence movement in Hong Kong, which returned to mainland rule in 1997, and recent protests there.

About 9,000 people yesterday took part in a New Year's Day march against a push by the Hong Kong government to disqualify four pro-democracy lawmakers.

China's Parliament last month gave a rare interpretation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-Constitution, to effectively bar pro-independence lawmakers from taking office in the city.

Mr Xi made no direct mention of self-ruled Taiwan, aside from extending New Year's greetings to them.

But the head of China's policymaking Taiwan Affairs Office in his New Year message said this year would see uncertainty.

"Looking ahead to 2017, the situation in the Taiwan Strait is complex and serious, and the development of relations is facing many uncertain factors and risk," Mr Zhang Zhijun said.

China hopes that people on both sides can show resolve and courage, to ensure the "correct direction" of the peaceful development of ties and work to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, he added.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said last Saturday that Taiwan will be "calm" when dealing with China, but uncertainties this year will test the island and its national security team even as she recommitted to maintaining peace.

"Step by step, Beijing is going back to the old path of dividing, coercing, and even threatening and intimidating Taiwan," she said .

China is deeply suspicious of Taiwan's first female president, and thinks Ms Tsai wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan.

US President-elect Donald Trump angered China last month when he spoke to Ms Tsai in a break with decades of precedent and cast doubt on his incoming administration's commitment to Beijing's "one China" policy.

Last Saturday, Mr Trump left open the possibility of meeting the Taiwanese leader if she visits the US after he is sworn in on Jan 20.

In remarks to reporters upon entering a New Year's Eve celebration at his Mar-a-Lago estate, Mr Trump said "we'll see" when pressed on whether he would meet Ms Tsai if she were to be in the US at any point after he becomes president.

Ms Tsai will be in transit in Houston on Jan 7, as well as in San Francisco on Jan 13.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2017, with the headline 'Xi won't let anyone make 'great fuss' about territory'. Print Edition | Subscribe