China, US reactions

Beijing warns Taipei off activities for independence

Taiwan's President-elect Tsai Ing-wen (centre) after winning the elections in Taipei on Jan 15, 2016.
Taiwan's President-elect Tsai Ing-wen (centre) after winning the elections in Taipei on Jan 15, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

China yesterday made clear its opposition to any Taiwan independence activities after the island's independence-leaning opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen won the presidential election in a landslide.

"Our policy towards Taiwan has always been consistent and clear, and won't change because of an election result," said a spokesman for the Cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO).

"We will continue upholding the 1992 Consensus and resolutely oppose any form of activities to do with Taiwan's independence... We are willing to continue engaging with all political parties and organisations that recognise the one-China policy," he added.

Beijing has warned that it will not deal with any Taiwanese leader who does not recognise the 1992 Consensus, a tacit agreement between the two sides in 1992 that there is one China, with each side having its own interpretation of what this means.

The political foundations of this consensus and opposition to Taiwan independence must be safeguarded, the spokesman had emphasised earlier in the day, adding that China has and will "always support cross-strait cultural exchanges and exchanges between youth from both sides".

"We have already made clear that we will not intervene in Taiwan's elections. What we are concerned (with) is cross-strait relations," said the spokesman.

But the Chinese Communist Party's response will continue to be closely watched. Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be recovered by force if necessary and is pushing for a political dialogue on reunification.

While Ms Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is traditionally pro-independence, she has walked a careful path on her China strategy in the run-up to the election, saying she wants to maintain the "status quo" with Beijing.

In her victory speech yesterday, Ms Tsai said she would not be provocative in relations with China but warned Beijing that "suppression" would harm cross-strait ties.

"Our democratic system, national identity and international space must be respected. Any forms of suppression will harm the stability of cross-strait relations," she said at the DPP's headquarters in Taipei.

The TAO spokesman also addressed a controversy that erupted yesterday over a Taiwanese K-pop star who was forced to issue a video apology for appearing on television holding the island's flag. He urged both sides to be "on high alert against political forces in Taiwan taking advantage of civilian-level exchanges to provoke conflict".

Yesterday, Washington also congratulated Ms Tsai while praising her China-friendly predecessor Ma Ying-jeou for his efforts to improve ties with China.

The United States' relationship with Taiwan, while close, is "unofficial" because Washington recognises the one-China principle.

"We look forward to working with Ms Tsai and Taiwan's leaders of all parties to advance our many common interests and further strengthen the unofficial relationship between the United States and the people on Taiwan," said US State Department spokesman John Kirby.

"The United States thanks President Ma Ying-jeou for his efforts to develop a strong partnership with the United States and applauds him for concrete steps he has taken to improve cross-strait ties in recent years," he added.

Mr Kirby also expressed hopes that the leadership transition will be smooth and that both Taiwanese parties will continue to promote peace and stability in the region.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 17, 2016, with the headline 'Beijing warns Taipei off activities for independence'. Print Edition | Subscribe