A protester holds a banner depicting Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou as Hitler while shouting slogans denouncing the controversial China Taiwan trade pact during a massive protest in front of the Presidential Building in Taipei, Taiwan, earlier this year. Pic: AP.

Taiwanese President Ma backs away from Beijing’s embrace, writes Asia Sentinel’s Jens Kastner

If indeed there had ever been a “Chiwan” on the horizon – a tighter relationship between China and Taiwan – it is fast receding, with Taipei affronting Beijing on almost weekly intervals, lately at least partly because of China’s unbending opposition to universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

In August, President Ma Ying-jeou of the previously China-friendly Kuomintang sacked his second-highest-ranking negotiator with China, Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chang Hsien-yao, on eyebrow-raising claims that China had recruited him as a spy.

But after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress announced that rank-and-file Hong Kong voters will not be allowed to pick a candidate for the territory’s chief executive in 2017, Ma irritated Beijing by stating that Hong Kong’s pursuit of democracy and rule of law will “receive the full backing of the Taiwanese.” Taiwan has full democratic suffrage.

Before these unprecedented snubs came months in which Ma had fought unsuccessfully to push through legislature a China-Taiwan service trade agreement although the KMT holds a very comfortable majority.

“When Ma Ying-jeou became president, he had indeed wanted to achieve unification with China,” said Chang An-lo, aka the White Wolf, the leader of Taiwan’s China Unification Promotion Party, in an interview with Asia Sentinel. “But he has since changed his mind and is now working hard on delaying it.”

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