China reiterated on Friday that it is prepared to use all means necessary – including force – to prevent the self-ruled island of Taiwan from becoming independent.
Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 15th anniversary of the Anti-Secession Law, Li Zuocheng, chief of the Joint Staff Department and a member of the key Central Military Commission, left the door open to using force.
The 2005 law gives the country the legal basis for military action against Taiwan if Beijing decides the self-ruled island has seceded, or appears about to.
“If the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost, the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to resolutely smash any separatist plots or actions,” Li said.
“We do not promise to abandon the use of force, and reserve the option to take all necessary measures, to stabilise and control the situation in the Taiwan Strait,” he added.
Li is one of China’s few senior officers with combat experience, having taken part in China’s ill-fated invasion of Vietnam in 1979.
Beijing claims Taiwan is one of China’s provinces and an inalienable part of “one China”.
The island, now one of the region’s most vibrant democracies, has shown no interest in being run by China’s authoritarian regime, and has condemned China’s repeated military drills in the seas and skies around the island.
China accuses Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, of being a separatist bent on declaring formal independence. Tsai says Taiwan is already an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name, and rejected China’s talk of “one country, two systems”.
Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party won presidential and parliamentary elections by a landslide in January, vowing to stand up to Beijing.
Taiwan has also criticised the move to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong, which is governed under ‘one country, two systems’ and supposed to enjoy rights and freedoms unknown on the mainland until at least 2047.
Taiwan said the legislation revealed the “hypocritical” nature of the framework, adding that it would further undermine cross-strait relations.
Tsai has been supportive of protesters in Hong Kong, and some activists have moved to the island.
She announced on Thursday that Taiwan would start work on a formal process to recognise arrivals from the semi-autonomous territory to ensure they would have housing, education and work.
In Beijing, senior party officials also spoke at the special ceremony on the anti-secession law.
Li Zhanshu, who is the third most senior leader in the Communist party and heads China’s parliament, said Beijing would not allow Taiwan to be separated from China.
While the head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said “one country, two systems” and “peaceful reunification” were the best way to bring China and Taiwan together.