Beijing and Taipei traded competing visions late last week over the fate of Taiwan as China signaled its determination to bring the island under its control while Taiwan’s president amplified her support of those resisting Chinese authority.
Officials in Beijing reiterated their commitment to “pro-actively” tackling the Taiwan issue — including possible military action — at an event Friday marking the 15th anniversary of China’s anti-secession law. For the most part taking their cues from President Xi Jinping’s previous comments on Taiwan, officials said Taiwan’s future lies in a political union with the mainland.
“We tell independence forces that no matter what they do, it’s illegal and ineffective,” said Li Zhanshu, the chairman of China’s National People’s Congress. “No matter what foreign forces they work with, they won’t be able to change the historical fact that Taiwan is a part of China.”
Relations between Taiwan’s democratic government and China’s Communist Party took a new twist when China’s legislature this week approved a proposal for sweeping new security measures in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which raised concerns Beijing would stamp out the “one country, two systems” policy governing relations and curb essential freedoms in the city.
China views separately ruled Taiwan as a part of its territory, and has vowed since the 1940s to bring it under its control, by force if necessary. China’s leaders have grown increasingly assertive about issues of sovereignty, ratcheting up tensions in response to Taiwan’s election of a government that views the island as a de facto independent nation.
President Tsai Ing-wen displayed her support for those in Hong Kong who have fallen foul of Beijing’s increased crackdown on dissent by visiting Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee in Taipei on Friday morning.
“We want to express our welcome and warmth for Hong Kong people like you. Thank you for persistence for freedom and democracy,” Tsai said.
Lam reopened his well-known Causeway Bay Books in Taipei this year after fleeing the former British colony out of fear that a proposed extradition law would expose him to the risk of imprisonment in China. He has made a career of selling books, from thrillers to romantic novels and tabloid gossip on the Chinese leadership, that the Communist Party doesn’t want people to read.
Since protests against the since-shelved extradition law flared in June last year, Taiwan has taken in thousands of Hong Kongers fleeing the chaos and the often violent police response. In the first four months of this year, the number of Hong Kong residents who have moved to Taiwan has more than doubled over the same period a year ago. This week Tsai asked her Cabinet to draft a plan to assist the resettling of Hong Kongers in need of asylum.
Hong Kong and Taiwan have become increasingly tense flash points in China’s relationship with Washington.
China’s comments against foreign interference in Taiwan are largely directed at the U.S., which has signaled its backing for Tsai through sales of fighter jets and pushing for the island’s inclusion in international bodies such as the World Health Organization. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo elicited an angry response from China after he congratulated Tsai on her inauguration to a second term earlier this month.
China shrugged off opposition from the U.S. and Europe in 2005 to pass an anti-secession law that authorizes the use of military force should Taiwan declare formal independence.