Furious mainland China slams Taiwanese leader’s ‘blatant’ call for independence


According to the commentary, Lai was “vigorously promoting separatist fallacies, inciting confrontation and hostility across the Taiwan Strait”. The speech was “full of provocative rhetoric, peddling the ‘two-country theory’ and advocating for ‘mutual non-subordination’ between the two sides”, it said.

Several senior Chinese officials had earlier slammed Lai for sending “dangerous signals” in the speech, while state news agency Xinhua commented that “those who play with fire will burn themselves” hours after the inauguration ceremony.

Lai’s speech was more confrontational than his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen’s address at the start of her first term in 2016.

Unlike Tsai, who acknowledged the 1992 consensus – a tacit agreement between Beijing and Taipei that there is one China but each side of the Taiwan Strait can have its own interpretation of what constitutes “China” – Lai did not mention it.

Instead, he said that Beijing had to “face the reality of the Republic of China’s existence” – using Taiwan’s official name – while “the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China are not subordinate to each other”.

Lai’s words were interpreted on the mainland as a clear call to action for Taiwan independence – a red line that must not be crossed, according to Beijing which regards the island as part of its territory, to be eventually brought under mainland control.

Lai, who has previously described himself as a “pragmatic worker for Taiwan independence”, is regarded as a separatist troublemaker by Beijing, with observers concerned that his presidency could escalate tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

05:06

William Lai sworn in as new Taiwan leader amid pledge to keep status quo across the strait

William Lai sworn in as new Taiwan leader amid pledge to keep status quo across the strait

“His words are filled with sinister intentions to seek independence through external means and to use military force to achieve it, once again revealing his stubborn stance on ‘Taiwan independence’,” the People’s Daily commentary said.

The article also warned that Lai’s words would only serve to further divide Taiwan from the mainland and escalate tensions between the two sides.

People’s Daily labelled Lai’s pledge that he would strive to maintain the status quo as “a complete charade” and said that he had “long been engaged in separatist activities but he pretends to be a champion of peace. This is the most shameless and unscrupulous act”.

“Headed down the path of provocation and confrontation, he is destined to crash into a brick wall,” it said.

The commentary said most of Taiwan’s people want peace, development, and cooperation, not war, decline, and separatism.

The Chinese nation has a shared belief that “its territory cannot be divided, its state cannot be chaotic, its people cannot be scattered, and its civilisation cannot be broken”, the article said.

“This is a historical necessity and internal logic that will inevitably lead to China’s reunification.”

In a series of articles published in the PLA Daily, senior officials criticised Lai’s speech as a “provocation” and a “threat to regional peace and stability”, accusing Lai of attempting to “split China” and “create chaos in the region”.

Despite the furious response, Beijing has been somewhat restrained in terms of military manoeuvring with the Taiwanese defence ministry reporting low activity in the 24 hours to 6am on Tuesday.

The ministry said no PLA aircraft had crossed the median line – a notional midpoint in the Taiwan Strait – in the period, while eight PLA Navy vessels were operating near the island. Both figures are low by mainland norms.



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