Taiwan's president says no to 'one country, two systems' ahead of elections

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday the island would not accept a “one country, two systems” political formula Beijing has suggested could be used to unify the democratic island, saying such an arrangement had failed in Hong Kong.

China claims Taiwan as its territory, to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if necessary. Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name.

Tsai, who’s seeking re-election in a January 11 vote, also vowed in a New Year’s speech to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty, saying her government would build a mechanism to safeguard freedom and democracy as Beijing ramps up pressure on the island.

Fear of China has become a major element in the campaign, boosted by months of anti-government protests in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong people have showed us that ‘one country, two systems’ is definitely not feasible,” Tsai said, referring to the political arrangement that guaranteed certain freedoms in the former British colony of Hong Kong after it was returned to China in 1997.

“Under ‘one country, two systems’, the situation continues to deteriorate in Hong Kong. The credibility of ‘one country, two systems’ has been sullied by the government’s abuse of power,” Tsai said.

Hong Kong has been hit by months of anti-government protests triggered by widespread resentment of perceived efforts by Beijing to exert control of the city despite the promises of autonomy.

Taiwan passes 'anti-infiltration law' 

Taiwan’s parliament passed an anti-infiltration law on Tuesday to combat perceived threats from China, further straining ties between Taiwan and Beijing.

The “anti-infiltration bill” pushed by Tsai’s Beijing-sceptic ruling party became law despite strong opposition from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party.

It bans “hostile” foreign forces from activities such as campaigning, lobbying, making political donations, disrupting social order or spreading disinformation related to elections.

Violators face a maximum five-year prison term and a fine of up to around $332,000.

“We passed the bill to prevent China, which is Taiwan’s only threat, from using its sharp power and its capital to pollute, manipulate or sabotage Taiwan’s democratic activities,” said lawmaker Wang Ting-yu, a member of Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), after the bill was passed.

The Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s top China policy-making body, said the new law would help strengthen the island’s “democratic defences”.

China’s “propaganda and infiltration to divide (Taiwan) are getting more serious and have threatened our national security as well as the normal operations of social order and democratic politics”, it said in a statement.

In Beijing, the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) lashed out at the DPP over the new law.

“The DPP imposes ‘Green Terror’ for its political and election gains to damage cross-strait exchanges while creating hostility and confrontation between the two sides,” office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Tsai said the law will protect Taiwan’s democracy and cross-strait exchanges will not be affected amid worries that the legislation may damage business ties with China.

China suspects Tsai and her independence-leaning DPP of pushing for the island’s formal independence, and has threatened it with war if there was any such move.

Tsai denies seeking independence and reiterated that she would not unilaterally change the status quo with China.

The bill has been a hot topic in the run-up to the elections as relations with China have dominated the campaign.

Tsai, who has described the vote as a fight for Taiwan’s freedom and democracy, is seeking a second term against the KMT’s Han Kuo-yu, a city mayor who favours warmer relations with Beijing.

She has said the bill was a response to “fears in Taiwan’s society over China’s infiltration from all sides”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)