Beijing dismisses Taiwan leader’s offer to help in transition to democracy

President Tsai Ing-wen made the offer on political reform on the anniversary of the crackdown against prodemocracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 June, 2017, 11:58am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 June, 2017, 11:06pm

Beijing hit back at Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s offer to help mainland China transition to democracy, saying on Monday the values and ideas pushed forward by her party had caused chaos on the self-ruled island.

The mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office said only mainland Chinese had the right to speak on mainland affairs, while suggesting Tsai could better spend her time reflecting on “the widespread discontent” in Taiwan and the “reasons behind why cross-strait relations had reached an impasse”.

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Beijing distrusts Tsai and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party because it traditionally advocates independence for Taiwan. Beijing says the island is part of China and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control.

“We are closer than any other point in history to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people,” office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said in a statement.

“[Taiwan authorities] should not divert attention and shirk responsibility while further inflaming cross-strait antagonism.”

Tsai said on Sunday, the 28th anniversary of the violent suppression of student-led prodemocracy protests in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, that the biggest gap between Taiwan and mainland China was democracy and freedom, needling Beijing at a time when relations are at a low point.

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“For democracy: some are early, others are late, but we all get there in the end,” Tsai said on social media. “Borrowing on Taiwan’s experience, I believe that China can shorten the pain of democratic reform.”

After nearly 40 years of martial law imposed by the Nationalists on Taiwan, the island in the late 1980s began its own transition to democracy, holding direct presidential elections since 1996.

While tens of thousands gathered for a candle-lit vigil in Hong Kong on Sunday, the Tiananmen anniversary remains strictly taboo on the mainland, where public commemorations are banned.