TENSIONS between China and Taiwan have once again come to the fore after a Chinese state-run newspaper called for the arrest of Taiwan’s premier for his comments on independence.
Taiwan Premier William Lai told parliament on Friday that he was a “Taiwan independence worker” and that his position was that Taiwan was a sovereign, independent country. His remarks prompted Chinese tabloid the Global Times to call for him to be prosecuted under China’s 2005 Anti-Secession Law.
“If evidence of his crimes are cast iron, then a global wanted notice can be issued for him,” the paper, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, wrote on Saturday.
Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint. Beijing claims Taiwan as its sacred territory and considers it a Chinese province, not a nation. China has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under Chinese control and has ramped up military exercises in the past year or so.
China’s hostility towards Taiwan has risen since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, a member of the island’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.
China suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, though Tsai has said she wants to maintain the status quo under the “One China” policy and is committed to ensuring peace.
On Monday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office called Lai’s comments “dangerous and presumptuous,” saying they harm peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and that Taiwan will never be separated from China.
In response, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said the Global Times and Chinese government’s comments were “intimidating and irrational.”
China “has repeatedly manipulated the media and so-called ‘internet users’ to threaten and repress Taiwan’s government and people, trying to use military blows and legal threats to violate our dignity and interests”, the council said.
“This is not what a responsible party should be doing. It will only increase cross-strait antagonism and damage relations,” it added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said last month that Taiwan would face the “punishment of history” for any attempt at separatism, offering his strongest warning yet to the island.
Additional reporting by Reuters