Taiwan's Kuomintang to boycott forum on unification with China after TV anchor's gaffe

Members from the Kuomintang, Taiwan's main opposition, arrive to attend its annual conference in Taipei on Sept 6, 2020.
Members from the Kuomintang, Taiwan's main opposition, arrive to attend its annual conference in Taipei on Sept 6, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (BLOOMBERG) - Taiwan's main opposition party will boycott a key forum for talks over unification with China, the latest indication of strained ties across the strait - even among those Beijing has traditionally viewed as allies.

The Kuomintang (KMT) will not send a delegation to the annual Straits Forum in the south-eastern Chinese city of Xiamen this weekend, the head of the party's culture and communications committee, Mr Wang Yu-min, said at a briefing in Taipei on Monday (Sept 14).

It marks the first time since the inaugural forum in 2009 that the KMT will not send an official delegation.

The snub comes after the KMT was angered by comments last week by a news anchor on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV describing the party's likely attendance at the forum as coming to "beg for peace with the mainland".

"Recent inappropriate comments from CCTV changed the tone of goodwill for this exchange," Mr Wang said. "The cross-strait relationship is very complicated and sensitive right now. Inappropriate remarks harm goodwill that isn't accumulated easily."

CCTV has taken all videos featuring the contentious remarks off its website, Taipei-based Liberty Times reported over the weekend.

The boycott comes as Taiwan becomes a bigger part of a broader competition for global influence.

Since the beginning of August, the US has promised to push forward long-stalled trade talks with the Taipei government and sent Health Secretary Alex Azar to Taiwan in August - the most senior US visit in more than 40 years.

China, meanwhile, has launched a series of military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. Last week, more than 20 Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone two days running.

 
 
 

The KMT has traditionally positioned itself as the only major political party in Taiwan able to talk directly with the Chinese authorities.

Beijing cut off direct contact with the current government in 2016 when President Tsai Ing-wen of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party came to power.

Ms Tsai, who won re-election in a landslide in January, has said she sees Taiwan as a de facto independent country - a stance Beijing views as incompatible with its "one-China" principle.