Democracy to govern China-Taiwan ties: Tsai Ing-wen

TAIPEI • Taiwan's President-elect said democracy would be at the heart of future relations with China after they hit bumps recently over sensitive issues like the forced deportation of Taiwanese fraud suspects from Kenya to the mainland.

Ms Tsai Ing-wen, who will take office on May 20 as the island's first woman president, repeated her vow to maintain the "status quo" across the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from the mainland.

"I have said several times in the past that the new government will do whatever it can to sustain the peace and stability of cross-strait ties, and make them consistent and predictable," Ms Tsai said yesterday.

"I'll abide by my promise," she added, while on a visit to the Mainland Affairs Council, where she served as minister for four years until 2004.

But Ms Tsai also highlighted a policy change when her China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party takes over the government from the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) party.

"What will be different from the past eight years is that the promotion of cross-strait ties will have to be based on the principle of democracy and people's desires" regardless of the position of any individual political party, she said.

"Only through this can cross-strait ties be managed over a long period, and the maintenance of the status quo be meaningful."

Before January's presidential vote, Ms Tsai accused the KMT government of handling relations with China through an opaque process that was not properly overseen by Parliament.

Taipei earlier this month blasted Beijing for being "rude and violent" over the deportation of 45 Taiwanese from Kenya to China, where they face investigation for fraud.

There was another bout of diplomatic sparring when Malaysia deported 20 Taiwanese fraud suspects to Taiwan, even though Chinese authorities said their offences were committed on the mainland.

Observers said China is stepping up pressure on Ms Tsai because it does not trust her party, which has historically been pro-independence.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war, but Beijing still considers the island to be part of its territory and is awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2016, with the headline 'Democracy to govern China-Taiwan ties: Tsai Ing-wen'. Print Edition | Subscribe