Tai­wan op­po­si­tion says only democ­racy can de­cide fu­ture


Only the peo­ple of Tai­wan can de­cide its fu­ture and will do so in elec­tions in Jan­uary, the is­land’s op­po­si­tion leader and pres­i­den­tial fron­trun­ner said yes­ter­day, as China’s top news­pa­per warned peace was at risk if it opted for in­de­pen­dence. A day af­ter Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Tai­wan Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou held his­toric talks in Sin­ga­pore, Tsai Ing­wen, leader of Tai­wan’s in­de­pen­dence-lean­ing Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP), said the lead­ers’ meet­ing had done noth­ing to make Tai­wan’s peo­ple feel safer.

“Only the ma­jor­ity pub­lic opin­ion on Jan. 16 can de­cide Tai­wan’s fu­ture and crosss­trait re­la­tions,” Tsai wrote, re­fer­ring to ties with the main­land. At the meet­ing in neu­tral Sin­ga­pore, the first get-to­gether of lead­ers of the two sides since China’s civil war ended in 1949, Xi told Ma they must not let pro­po­nents of Tai­wan’s in­de­pen­dence split them.

Ma in re­turn called for mu­tual re­spect for each other’s sys­tems and said Tai­wan peo­ple were con­cerned about main­land mis­siles point­ing their way.

Tsai said Ma’s per­for­mance had an­gered many peo­ple in Tai­wan, and what he did was not a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of main­stream pub­lic opin­ion. “As a na­tion’s leader, Pres­i­dent Ma did not make his peo­ple proud or feel safe. In­stead, he cre­ated more anx­i­ety,” she added. China’s Na­tion­al­ists, also known as the Kuom­intang (KMT), re­treated to Tai­wan af­ter los­ing the civil war to the Com­mu­nists, who are still in charge in Bei­jing. Both agree there is “one China” but agree to dis­agree on the in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Bei­jing views self-ruled and proudly demo­cratic Tai­wan as a rene­gade prov­ince, to be bought un­der its con­trol by force if nec­es­sary, and has warned that moves to­wards for­mal in­de­pen­dence could stoke con­flict.

In a com­men­tary, the Com­mu­nist Party’s of­fi­cial Peo­ple’s Daily said the two lead­ers sit­ting to­gether showed a de­sire not to let the “tragedy of his­tory” re­peat it­self nor to let the fruits of peace­ful de­vel­op­ment be lost.

Progress over the past seven years - re­fer­ring to the rule of the China-friendly Ma - has been pos­si­ble due to a joint po­lit­i­cal will to op­pose Tai­wan in­de­pen­dence and ac­cept there is “one China”, al­beit it with dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions, the pa­per said.

“If this ‘magic cud­gel’ did not ex­ist, the boat of peace would en­counter a fierce and frightening storm, or even flip over com­pletely,” it wrote. “Com­pa­tri­ots on both sides of the Tai­wan Strait must join to­gether and res­o­lutely op­pose the Tai­wan in­de­pen­dence forces and their sep­a­ratist ac­tiv­i­ties,” the news­pa­per added. While bi­lat­eral trade, in­vest­ment and tourism have blos­somed par­tic­u­larly since Ma and his KMT took power in 2008 - there is deep sus­pi­cion on both sides and no progress has been made on any sort of po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment.

One source with ties to the lead­er­ship in Bei­jing said China was not count­ing on the meet­ing to help the Na­tion­al­ists win the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, but hoped it would at least pre­vent them from dis­in­te­grat­ing. “If the DPP con­trols the leg­is­la­ture and amended the con­sti­tu­tion (for­mally) declar­ing in­de­pen­dence, the main­land would be in a very dif­fi­cult po­si­tion,” the source said.

In 2005, China en­acted an “anti-se­ces­sion law” that al­lows it to use force on Tai­wan if deemed nec­es­sary. Pre­vi­ous Chi­nese at­tempts to in­flu­ence Tai­wan’s elec­tions have back­fired.

In 1996, then-Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Jiang Zemin or­dered mis­sile tests and war games in the seas around Tai­wan to try to in­tim­i­date vot­ers not to back Lee Teng-hui, who China be­lieved was mov­ing the is­land closer to for­mal in­de­pen­dence. Lee won by a land­slide. —Reuters

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