KMT rejects Xi's plan for HK-style union with Taiwan

China-friendly party says 'one country, two systems' framework lacks public support

The China-friendly Kuomintang said in a statement that the "one country, two systems" framework adopted before Hong Kong's return from British rule was unacceptable for Taiwan, because it lacked public support. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI • Chinese President Xi Jinping's proposal for a Hong Kong-style union with Taiwan has spurred a rare show of unity from the island's fiercely combative political parties.

No thanks, they both said.

The China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) said in a statement on Thursday that the "one country, two systems" framework adopted before Hong Kong's return from British rule was unacceptable for democratically run Taiwan because it lacked public support.

The opposition's remarks echoed criticism from President Tsai Ing-wen and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), after Mr Xi reaffirmed China's interest in the model on Wednesday.

"We look forward to the two sides of the Taiwan Strait engaging in a competition of systems to determine the best system to advance the welfare of the people on both sides of the strait," the KMT said.

The rebuke by Taiwan's strongest advocate for improved relations with the mainland underscores the difficulty Mr Xi faces in trying to resolve the 70-year dispute during his tenure.

The Hong Kong system - originally conceived as a solution for Taiwan - has come under increasing criticism as Beijing works to rein in dissent in the financial hub.

Former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, the KMT leader who held an unprecedented meeting with Mr Xi in 2015, also said in a radio interview that there was no market for "one country, two systems" in Taiwan, which has been ruled separately since the Chinese civil war.

Mr Xi made his remarks in a speech on Wednesday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of a landmark Communist Party appeal across the Taiwan Strait. He proposed that both sides elect representatives "to conduct extensive and in-depth democratic consultations on cross-strait relations and the future of the Chinese nation".

"The difference in systems is not an obstacle to reunification or an excuse for separation," he said.

Mr Xi's message appeared targeted at the KMT, which has long advocated talks, rather than Ms Tsai and the DPP.

Mr Ma even took issue with Mr Xi's interpretation of the so-called 1992 Consensus, a negotiating framework that underpinned their meeting. Under it, both sides agree there's "one China", even if they disagree on what that means.

Mr Ma said both sides should clearly define what the 1992 Consensus means to avoid misunderstandings. He said Mr Xi's comments show a sense of urgency in Beijing towards making progress in resolving the Taiwan dispute.

Dr Jonathan Sullivan, director of the University of Nottingham's China Policy Institute, called Mr Xi's speech "a huge missed opportunity to demonstrate new and creative thinking that takes the reality of Taiwan's position and Taiwanese public opinion into account".

"Instead, it rehashed the same old thinking that has totally failed to resonate in Taiwan in the 40 years since the first direct communication to Taiwanese compatriots," Dr Sullivan said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2019, with the headline KMT rejects Xi's plan for HK-style union with Taiwan. Subscribe