BEIJING — China will firmly oppose Taiwan “separatism”, Premier Li Keqiang declared Sunday, following tension with United States President Donald Trump over the self-ruled island.
“We will resolutely oppose and contain separatist activities for Taiwan independence,” Mr Li said in a speech opening the annual session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC).
“We will never tolerate any activity, in any form or name, which attempts to separate Taiwan from the motherland,” he added.
Mr Trump raised eyebrows following his November election victory with a protocol-bending telephone conversation with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.
The American leader had thrown doubt on the One China policy — a tacit acknowledgement of China’s claim to the self-ruled island — suggesting that the decades-old diplomatic formulation was up for negotiation, which drew protests from China.
However, Mr Trump has since said that he would respect the One China policy.
China is deeply suspicious of Ms Tsai, whose ruling Democratic Progressive Party espouses the island’s formal independence, a red line for Beijing, which has cut off an official dialogue mechanism with Taipei.
Chinese jets and warships carried out exercises near Taiwan and into the Western Pacific last Thursday, as Taiwan’s Defence Minister warned of growing threat from its giant neighbour.
Yesterday, Mr Li extended the usual cautious olive branch across the Taiwan Strait, saying China would continue efforts to increase linkages with the island, which have included rising cross-strait investment, daily direct flights and increased tourism between the two territories.
“People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should keep in mind the greater interests of the nation”, and work towards the “reunification of China”, he said.
In Hong Kong, fears have grown that Beijing is increasingly interfering in the governance of the semi-autonomous financial hub, sparking calls by some activists for self-determination or even independence.
The former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, granting it extensive autonomy, an independent judiciary and rule of law for at least 50 years.
Hong Kong students organised weeks of protests in late 2014 to push for full democracy, but Beijing declined to make concessions.
Mr Li yesterday shot down any hope of Hong Kong independence. “The notion of Hong Kong independence will lead nowhere,” he said.
His annual report to the highly choreographed congress is akin to a state-of-the-nation address highlighting key government priorities for the year, which are then typically repeated in subsequent delegate meetings.
The 10-day NPC session runs until March 15. AGENCIES