October 21, 2017 7:16 pm JST

China promotes global efforts to oppose Taiwanese independence

Beijing reiterates support for Myanmar amid Rohingya crisis

DEBBY WU, Nikkei staff writer

Executive Vice Minister of the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department, Zhang Yijiong, speaks at a news conference in Beijing on Oct.21. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

BEIJING -- China is increasing global efforts to oppose Taiwanese independence, a senior ruling Chinese Communist Party official said on Saturday, reiterating his country's claim to the self-governing democratic island.

"We are unwavering in our upholding of the 'One China' principle, and we insist on the political foundation of the '1992 Consensus' being sustained, and we are firmly opposed to Taiwan independence," Zhang Yijiong, executive vice minister of the party's United Front Work Department, told reporters in discussing Beijing's policy toward Taiwan.

The 1992 Consensus refers to a controversial political agreement under which both Taiwan and Beijing accepted the "One China" principle. Beijing has viewed this agreement as a commitment by Taiwan to eventual unification, although the two sides have differed on the interpretation of what "One China" means.

"We have been guiding our [overseas compatriots] to work on the construction of a modern nation and the grand task of peaceful unification, and promoting a global movement to oppose independence and support peaceful unification," Zhang said.

This approach is also directed toward Hong Kong, where opposition to Beijing's tightening political control has been increasing, especially among the territory's youth. Calls for the territory to be independent, although limited in scope, are growing.

Zhang echoed comments made by Chinese President Xi Jinping this week during his keynote speech to kick off the Chinese Communist Party congress, which is held every five years.

While Xi sharply criticized anti-China elements in Taiwan, he also indicated flexibility by repeating earlier promises to grant a high degree of autonomy to Taiwan if the two countries unified. Critics noted, however, that Beijing has never made good on similar pledges to Hong Kong and Macau.

Taiwan formed a separate country after the Chinese civil war ended in 1949. Beijing views the island as a breakaway province and refuses to abandon the option of using force to achieve unification.

Zhang highlighted China's opposition to what it considers other domestic separatist movements by condemning the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

"The Dalai Lama organized a so-called 'Tibetan government in exile' in 1959. This exiled government's core value is 'Tibetan independence' and 'split the motherland'," Zhang said.
He added that any foreign governments that receives the Dalai Lama hurts the sentiments of the Chinese people. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly stated that he is open to dialogue with Beijing and he is not seeking independence.

During the same press conference, Vice Minister Guo Yezhou of the party's International Department reiterated Beijing's support for the Myanmar government, which has come under international criticism for failing to end a military campaign that senior UN officials have said amounts to ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine State.

"We understand and support the efforts by Myanmar authorities to maintain peace and stability in the region," Guo said, adding that the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi can handle the issue without external help.

He also condemned recent "violent attacks" in Rakhine State, referring to those carried out by Rohingya militants against Myanmar security forces on Aug. 25. More than half a million Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh in response to the Myanmar military's actions.

In September, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Beijing supported Myanmar's crackdown on the insurgents in Rakhine State.

But Guo remained vague when asked about other issues, including Beijing's ties with Pyongyang and whether it has been conducting exchanges at a senior level with North Korea.

"Traditionally, our party has fostered friendly exchanges with North Korea's ruling Workers' Party. When and at what level we may conduct exchanges will depend on mutual conveniences and requirements," Guo said.

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