Incumbent Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Vice President-elect William Lai wave to their supporters after their election victory at a rally, outside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan – Reuters
TAIPEI (Reuters): Taiwanese re-elected President Tsai Ing-wen by a landslide on Saturday in a stern rebuke that could fuel further tension with China, which has tried military threats and economic inducements to get the island to accept its rule.
Anti-government unrest in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong took centre stage during a campaign in which Tsai held up Taiwan as a beacon of hope for protesters in the former British colony and rejected Beijing’s offer of a “one country, two systems” model.
China claims Taiwan as its sacred territory, to be taken by force if needed, a threat President Xi Jinping reiterated a year ago while saying he preferred a peaceful solution.
“One country, two systems,” which gives a high degree of autonomy, much as Beijing uses in Hong Kong, has never been popular in Taiwan and is even less so after months of protests in Hong Kong.
China made itself even more unpopular in Taiwan in the run-up to the election by twice sailing its newest aircraft carrier through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, denounced by Taipei as an effort at military intimidation.
“We hope that the Beijing authorities can understand that a democratic Taiwan with a government chosen by the people will not give in to threats and intimidation,” Tsai told reporters.
Beijing needs to understand the will of Taiwan’s people, and that only Taiwan’s people can decide its future, she added, repeating her firm opposition to “one country, two systems”.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, in a statement carried by state media, reaffirmed its commitment to this approach and its opposition to any form of independence.
Tsai beat her main opponent Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang party, which favours close ties with China, by more than 2.6 million votes. Underscoring the scale of her victory, Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party also won a majority in parliament.
The United States, Taiwan’s strongest international backer and main arms supplier, congratulated Tsai. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Taiwan a “force for good in the world”.
“The United States thanks President Tsai for her leadership in developing a strong partnership with the United States and applauds her commitment to maintaining cross-Strait stability in the face of unrelenting pressure,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Tsai won almost 8.2 million votes in total, more than any Taiwan president since the island held its first direct presidential election in 1996.
Speaking in the southern city of Kaoshiung where he is mayor, Han, who had to fend off allegations from Tsai on the campaign trail that he and his party were puppets of Beijing, said he had called to congratulate Tsai.
“I still hope to see a united Taiwan after we wake up,” Han said, accompanied by a swell of mournful music on stage. “I urge President Tsai Ing-wen to focus on giving people a life where they can live safely and happily.”
Han said Taiwan could only be safe and prosperous if it had good relations with Beijing.
“People have been stirred up by the Hong Kong situation and that deceived many people into voting for Tsai,” said Huang Lu-lu, 38, at what was supposed to be a victory rally for Han.
After his brief speech, the glum crowds dispersed, some crying.
China cut off a dialogue mechanism when Tsai took office in 2016 and has regularly flown bombers near the island since.
China believes Tsai wants to push for a Republic of Taiwan, a red line for Beijing. Tsai says Taiwan is already an independent country called the Republic of China.
Tsai’s win is all the more embarrassing for China because it follows another landslide victory, in November, for pro-democracy candidates in Hong Kong in district council elections after residents turned out in record numbers.
“I believe friends in Hong Kong will be happy about our collective decision tonight,” Tsai said. Prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong tweeted that Tsai’s victory was a “precious moment” for the people of Hong Kong.
“Today is the day for the majority of Taiwanese to choose their fate, to safeguard their democracy and freedoms, and most importantly, to say no to CCP’s authoritarian invasion,” he wrote in English, referring to China’s Communist Party.
Taiwanese are broadly sympathetic to the protesters in Hong Kong, an Asian financial hub.
“I saw what’s happening in Hong Kong and it’s horrible,” said first-time voter Stacey Lin, 20, in the capital Taipei. “I just want to make sure I have the freedom to vote in the future.”
China says will not change position on Taiwan after landslide election
TAIPEI (Reuters): China will not change its position that Taiwan belongs to it, Beijing said on Sunday, after President Tsai Ing-wen won re-election and said she would not submit to China’s threats, as state media warned she was courting disaster.
The election campaign was dominated by China’s ramped-up efforts to get the democratic island to accept Beijing’s rule under a “one country, two systems” model, as well as by anti-government protests in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong.
“No matter what changes there are to the internal situation in Taiwan, the basic fact that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China will not change,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, responding to the result.
While China says Taiwan is its territory, Taiwan maintains it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name.
Tsai, who has firmly rejected China’s “one country, two systems” model, won another four-year term by a landslide, and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secured a majority in parliament.
Speaking on Saturday after the scale of her victory become clear, Tsai called for talks to resume with China, but said she hoped Beijing understood Taiwan and its people would not submit to intimidation.
China will not change its stance sticking to the “one China” principle and opposing independence for Taiwan, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
“The universal consensus of the international community adhering to the ‘one China’ principle will not change either.”
China hoped the world would understand and support the “just cause” of Chinese people to oppose secessionist activities and “realise national reunification”, it added.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said China should respect the election result and stop putting pressure on the island.
“Our Government will firmly defend the sovereignty of the Republic of China and Taiwan’s democracy and freedom,” it said.
In a strongly worded commentary, China’s official Xinhua news agency said Tsai had won by deploying dirty tricks, hyping the China threat and colluding with forces in the West.
“Whether it is to curb Taiwan independence secessionist activities or to benefit Taiwan compatriots, the mainland has a full ‘policy toolbox’,” it said.
“Tsai and the DPP must be aware that they should not act wilfully because of a fluke.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated Tsai on her re-election and lauded her for seeking stability with China “in the face of unrelenting pressure”.