China has accused a committee of British legislators visiting Taiwan of “gross interference” in its internal affairs and warned that it could be “met with forceful responses”.
The ongoing visit to Taiwan by members of the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee is a “flagrant violation” of the “one-China principle“, the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom said in a statement posted on Twitter on Thursday.
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China claims Taiwan, a democratic self-ruled island, as its own territory and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve its goals. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims.
“The Chinese side urges the UK side to abide by its commitment, stop any actions that violate the one-China principle, and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs,” the embassy’s spokesperson said in the statement.
“Moves of the UK side that undermine China’s interests will be met with forceful responses from the Chinese side.”
The visit sent the “wrong signal” to those who want Taiwan to be independent, the statement said.
— Chinese Embassy in UK (@ChineseEmbinUK) December 1, 2022
The visit is part of the committee’s work in studying a British shift in foreign policy towards the Indo-Pacific region, which London has considered an economic and diplomatic priority since leaving the European Union.
“The Indo-Pacific, and the strength of our relationships in the region, is of huge importance to the UK. Within the Indo-Pacific region, Taiwan’s voice is unique and invaluable,” committee chair Alicia Kearns said in a statement ahead of the five day visit.
Minister Wu held a banquet for the #UK🇬🇧 @HouseofCommons delegation to #Taiwan🇹🇼. He compared notes with the MPs on increasing authoritarian threats & other worrying issues at home & abroad. All concurred that cooperation between democracies is more vital than ever. pic.twitter.com/KO7vfmUSEp
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) December 1, 2022
The committee, which scrutinises government policy, includes legislators from the ruling Conservatives as well as the opposition Labour party and the Scottish Nationalists.
“It is entirely right that democracies engage in dialogue with one another,” committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns said in response to the Chinese statement.
“Whilst the Chinese Communist Party has chosen to shut down dialogue by sanctioning British MPs, I believe that engaging with, and listening to, our friends across the Indo-Pacific, matters.”
In March 2021, China imposed sanctions on nine Britons, including some elected lawmakers, for spreading what it said were “lies and disinformation” about alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Britain’s diplomatic relations with China have been strained for several years, amid rows over human rights, economic policy and the mass protests that shook the former British colony of Hong Kong in 2019 and led to the imposition of a sweeping national security law.
This week Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the so-called “golden era” of relations between London and Beijing was over and that China posed a “systemic challenge” to the UK’s “values and interests”.
The British lawmakers met Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang on Thursday and are scheduled to meet President Tsai Ing-Wen on Friday.
“We look forward to continuing to deepen the friendly and cooperative relations between Taiwan and the UK through this face-to-face exchange, and to continue to work together for the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region,” Tsai’s office said.
In August, the then-speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan, triggering unprecedented large scale war games from China and further straining ties between Beijing and the United States.
The US has formal relations with China, but under its policy of “strategic ambiguity” provides Taiwan with the means to defend itself.
Beijing has stepped up pressure on the island since Tsai was first elected president in 2016, but an increasing number of politicians from the US and Europe have shown a willingness to travel to Taipei despite China’s objections.