Taiwan's main opposition party moved to distance itself from China after one of its most senior officials lost a highly charged recall election, as attitudes harden toward Beijing on the democratic island claimed by China.

The Kuomintang, or KMT, was already reeling from losing presidential and parliamentary elections in January, having failed to shake off accusations from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) it wanted to sell out Taiwan to China.

On Saturday, the KMT's defeated presidential candidate, Han Kuo-yu, lost by a wide margin a recall vote for his position as mayor of the southern port city of Kaohsiung.