China's 19th party congress

Any bid to split Taiwan from China will be defeated: Xi

A local resident walks past a monitor showing a broadcast from Beijing of Chinese leader Xi Jinping speaking at the 19th Communist Party Congress, in Taipei. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING • President Xi Jinping has reiterated that China will defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will not tolerate a repeat of history where the country was broken up.

"We have the resolve, the confidence and the ability to defeat separatist attempts for Taiwan independence in any form," Mr Xi said to loud applause from delegates at the opening of the Chinese Communist Party's five-yearly national congress yesterday.

But he balanced his strong words with calls for talks and unobstructed exchanges between the two sides, as long as Taiwan recognises the 1992 Consensus, which is a tacit agreement that both China and Taiwan belong to one China, with each side having its own interpretation of what this means.

In response to Mr Xi's comments, Taiwan's government said it was "absolutely" the right of Taiwan's 23 million people to decide their own future.

The perpetration of a democratic system is a core value of Taiwan, the island's Mainland Affairs Council said.

Cross-strait ties have chilled considerably since Ms Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, became Taiwan's President last year.

She has refused to acknowledge the 1992 Consensus, which Beijing regards as the political basis for peaceful cross-strait ties.

Beijing considers Taiwan as a renegade province and Mr Xi's goal is to push for a peaceful unification.

Since Ms Tsai took office in May last year, Beijing has cut off official communication with Taiwan and taken steps to further squeeze its international space.

China faces similar calls for independence in Hong Kong, which reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997 under the "one country, two systems" arrangement.

But pro-independence sentiments have swept the city in recent years, with young Hong Kongers demanding more democratic rights.

In his speech, Mr Xi said: "The policy of 'one country, two systems' has proven to be the best solution to the question of Hong Kong... and the best institutional guarantee for the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline Any bid to split Taiwan from China will be defeated: Xi. Subscribe