Taiwan hits back at China for ‘repeated interference’ in upcoming elections

Taipei responds to Beijing calling frontrunner candidate Lai ‘dangerous’ and towards ‘evil path’ of independence.

Lai Ching-te, Taiwan's vice president and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential candidate
Lai Ching-te, Taiwan's vice president and the governing Democratic Progressive Party's presidential candidate, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan December 22, 2023 [Ann Wang/Reuters]

Taiwan has condemned China for what it called intimidation of its citizenry and attempts to influence the island’s elections on Saturday.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu criticised China’s “repeated interference” in the upcoming polls, lambasting Beijing for “once again blatantly intimidating the Taiwanese people and the international community”.

The elections “are in the international spotlight & PRC’s repeated interference steals the focus. Frankly, Beijing should stop messing with other countries’ elections & hold their own,” he posted on X, using the acronym for China’s official name.

The statement was in response to China and Taiwan’s largest opposition party warning that Vice President and presidential hopeful Lai Ching-te, from the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), would be a threat to peace in the region if he wins.

“I sincerely hope the majority of Taiwan compatriots recognise the extreme harm of the DPP’s ‘Taiwan independence’ line and the extreme danger of Lai Ching-te’s triggering of cross-Strait confrontation and conflict, and to make the right choice at the crossroads of cross-Strait relations,” said China’s Taiwan Affairs Office in a statement.

If elected, Lai would further promote separatist activities towards the “evil path” of independence, the statement said.

The China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) opposition party also denounced Lai for his independence stance.

The KMT’s vice presidential candidate, Jaw Shaw-kong, said if Lai wins, then tensions would surge before May 20, when President Tsai Ing-wen hands over power.

“Tsai Ing-wen is more low key, not shouting every day about ‘I’m for Taiwan independence’ and the Taiwan Strait is already so tense. If Lai Ching-te wins, do you think the cross-strait situation will be better than it is now,” said Jaw.

Taiwan is holding presidential and parliamentary elections on Saturday, an event that is being closely watched globally due to geopolitical tensions.

China has not publicly referred to a preferred candidate but has called the election a choice between war and peace. It has long claimed Taiwan as its own territory, viewing the island as a renegade province.

It has not given up on the idea of using force to take Taiwan, ramping up military activity around the island in recent years.

On Thursday, China called on the United States to “refrain from intervening” in the elections, saying it “firmly opposed” official visits between the island and the US after Washington said it would send a delegation there following this week’s polls.

This would serve to cause “serious damage to China-US relations”, said China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning.

Lai has said he is committed to peace in the region and open to conditional engagement with Beijing.

The frontrunner said on Tuesday that he has no intention of changing Taiwan’s formal name, the Republic of China, which was established in 1949 after a civil war involving Mao Zedong’s Communists, who established the People’s Republic of China.

The DPP has portrayed the KMT and its presidential candidate, Hou Yu-ih, as pro-Beijing. Hou, however, has rejected the allegation that he is “pro-China and a sell-out of Taiwan”.

He said he would not touch the issue of “unification” if elected. Instead, he would encourage communication with China. He has also said he is opposed to the “one country, two systems” autonomy model Beijing has offered to Taiwan.

Lai has also opposed China’s autonomy model.

“We cannot have illusions about peace. Accepting China’s ‘one-China’ principle is not true peace,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies