Jan 9, 2024 - World

Taiwan opposition party can only bring "fake peace," rival candidate says

Lai Ching-te, Taiwan's vice president and presidential candidate for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, left, and his running mate Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan's former representative to the US, during a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024.

William Lai, left, and his running mate Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan's former representative to the US, during a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. Photo: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg via Getty Images

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The support of Taiwan's opposition party for the one-China principle can't bring true peace and could lead to Taiwan becoming like Hong Kong, rival Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate William Lai told reporters on Tuesday ahead of this weekend's election.

The big picture: Taiwan's relationship with China is a key issue this year as Beijing has increased its pressure on the island.

  • The Kuomintang (KMT), one of Taiwan's two major parties, is presenting the election as a choice between war and peace; Beijing has also cast the election in these terms. KMT presidential candidate Hou You-yi has promised better relations with China.
  • The DPP, which has ruled for the past eight years, is presenting this year's race as a choice between democracy and authoritarianism.

What he's saying: "Accepting the one China principle isn't true peace. Peace without sovereignty is like Hong Kong; it's fake peace," Lai said at a press conference on Tuesday.

  • Many Taiwanese see Hong Kong's fate as a cautionary tale. Hong Kong returned to mainland Chinese sovereignty in 1997 and Beijing promised to grant it a high degree of autonomy until 2047.
  • But in 2020 the Chinese government imposed a tough national security law on the city that has resulted in the elimination of Hong Kong's once-robust political freedoms.
  • Since then, Hong Kong hasn't seen the mass protests that at times brought the city to a standstill in 2019 — because such protests are no longer legal and dozens of protesters now stand trial under the new law.

Between the lines: The KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) aren't aligned on how they describe the one-China principle.

  • The CCP says the People's Republic of China under the CCP's governance has rightful sovereignty over Taiwan, and has the right to take action in support of that claim.
  • The KMT says the Republic of China is still the legal and legitimate government of all of China, which includes Taiwan —a position which is enshrined in the Republic of China's constitution. But the KMT recognizes the reality that for now, the People's Republic of China administers the mainland, and the KMT does not actively seek to change that.

The DPP says adopting policies in line with the one-China principle will eventually result in Taiwan's loss of sovereignty and political freedoms.

  • Lai recently referred to the Republic of China constitution as a "disaster."
  • The DPP's position is Taiwan is already an independent country known as the "Republic of China, Taiwan" and thus has no need to declare independence from China.

The other side: The KMT says the DPP's position brings Taiwan into dangerous conflict with China, and the DPP isn't being true to Taiwan's history.

  • "The DPP clearly lacks the determination to defend the ROC," the KMT wrote on its Facebook page in April 2023. "It is unwilling to face the constitutional facts, and yet does not dare to amend the Constitution, nor declare Taiwanese independence."
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