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China breathes fire as Taiwan’s new President Lai Ching-te asserts sovereignty

Much on the expected lines, China hit back with its Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin countering Lai by saying: "Taiwan independence is a dead end".

PTI Beijing/Taipei Published 20.05.24, 04:49 PM
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China on Monday denounced Taiwan’s new President Lai Ching-te for his assertion that the self-ruled island is sovereign and vowed to uphold the status quo, saying that he has sent "a dangerous signal" of seeking "Taiwan independence".

Lai, 64, also known as William Lai, who succeeded his independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) colleague Tsai Ing-wen after winning the popular vote in the January Presidential election this year, was sworn in as the president at a ceremony held in Taipei on Monday.


China views Taiwan as a rebel province that must be reunified with the mainland, even by force.

Lai's DPP party does not seek independence from China but maintains that Taiwan is already a sovereign nation.

In his no-holds-barred inaugural speech, Lai called on China to stop threatening the island, promised to uphold the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and called on Beijing to work jointly for peace.

Lai urged Beijing to replace confrontation with dialogue and avowed that Taiwan would never back down in the face of intimidation from China, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

“As the future of both sides of the Taiwan Strait will have a decisive impact on the development of the world, we – carrying on Taiwan’s democratisation – are the helmsmen of peace,” he said.

Lai said his government will adhere to the “four commitments” [of national sovereignty, democracy, and freedom] and maintain the status quo without being overbearing or servile.

“We all know that a country has sovereignty. According to the constitution of the Republic of China, (official name for Taiwan) the sovereignty of the Republic of China belongs to the people as a whole,” Lai said.

“Anyone who holds Republic of China nationality is a citizen of the Republic of China; thus, it is clear that the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are not subordinate to each other,” he affirmed.

“Every individual must unite and cherish the nation. Any political party must resist annexation and protect sovereignty, and cannot sacrifice national sovereignty for political power," Lai said in an apparent reference to pro-Beijing opposition parties.

Taiwan’s sovereignty is a red rag for China as President Xi Jinping has been consistently maintaining that Taiwan will eventually be part of China.

Xi has ramped up massive military infrastructure around the Taiwan Strait, the narrow sea that separates the two sides deploying aircraft carriers, with numerous naval ships, jet fighters, and missiles pointing toward the island.

Much on the expected lines, China hit back with its Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin countering Lai by saying: "Taiwan independence is a dead end".

"Regardless of the pretext or the banner under which it is pursued, the push for Taiwan independence is destined to fail," Wang told a media briefing here, in reaction to Lai’s remarks.

A Chinese mainland spokesperson said Lai had sent "a dangerous signal" of seeking "Taiwan independence" and making provocations to undermine cross-Strait peace and stability in his speech upon assuming the role of Taiwan region's new leader.

China doesn't officially recognise the office of the Presidency of Taiwan or any ministerial designations.

Chen Binhua, a spokesperson for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, described Lai's speech as one that stubbornly followed the "Taiwan independence" stance, wantonly advocated separatism, incited cross-Strait confrontation, and sought independence by relying on foreign support and by force.

Chen said the mainstream public aspiration on the island is for peace and development, instead of war and recession. At the same time, Lai has ignored public opinion, exposing his nature as "a worker for Taiwan independence".

The current complex and grave situation across the Strait is rooted in the fact that Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, (DPP) has stubbornly stuck to the separatist stance of "Taiwan independence", rejected the 1992 Consensus that embodies the one-China principle, and kept colluding with external forces to make provocations of seeking "Taiwan independence", Chen said.

Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, said Chen, stressing that "Taiwan independence" and peace across the Strait are incompatible as fire and water.

"We have firm determination to resolve the Taiwan question and realise national reunification; we have strong capabilities to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity; and we will take resolute actions to fight separatist activities seeking 'Taiwan independence' and external interference'," he said.

"We will never tolerate any 'Taiwan independence' separatist acts in any form," Chen said according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

Lai, a doctor turned politician, won a three-way presidential race in January, securing an unprecedented third term for his DPP party.

He had served as Tsai's vice-president since 2020, and before that as her premier.

In his younger days, he was known to be a more radical politician who openly called for Taiwanese independence, much to Beijing's ire, according to a BBC report.

China labelled him a "troublemaker" ahead of the polls and Chinese state media even suggested he should be prosecuted for secession.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.


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