World

Beijing reiterates 'One China' stance

Pro-independence movements in Taiwan, Hong Kong will be contained, says Premier Li

BEIJING China will resolutely oppose and contain Taiwan independence, Premier Li Keqiang said at the opening of the annual meeting of Parliament yesterday, amid heightened tension between Beijing and the self-ruled island.

"We will resolutely oppose and contain separatist activities for Taiwan independence," Mr Li said in a speech opening the session of China's rubber-stamp National People's Congress (NPC).

"We will never tolerate any activity, in any form or name, which attempts to separate Taiwan from the motherland."

US President Donald Trump raised eyebrows following his November election victory with a protocol-busting telephone conversation with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen.

He later threw doubt on the "One China" policy - a tacit acknowledgement of China's claim to the self-ruled island - suggesting that the decades-old diplomatic formulation was up for negotiation, which drew protests from China.

But Mr Li extended the usual cautious olive branch across the Taiwan Strait, saying China will continue efforts to increase linkages with the island, which includes rising cross-strait investment, daily direct flights and increased tourism between the two territories.

"People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should keep in mind the greater interests of the nation", and work towards the "reunification of China".

In Hong Kong, fears have grown that Beijing is increasingly interfering in the governance of the semi-autonomous financial hub, sparking calls by some activists for self-determination or even independence.

Such calls have riled Beijing, and Mr Li shut down any hope of Hong Kong independence.

The notion of Hong Kong independence will lead nowhere. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang

"The notion of Hong Kong independence will lead nowhere," he said.

The 10-day NPC session runs until March 15.

China is deeply suspicious of Taiwan's leader Tsai, whose ruling Democratic Progressive Party espouses the island's formal independence, a red line for Beijing, which has cut off an official dialogue mechanism with Taipei. Ms Tsai said she wants peace with China.

In 2014, hundreds of students occupied Taiwan's Parliament for weeks in protests, demanding more transparency and fearful of China's growing economic and political influence on the democratic island.

Chinese jets and warships carried out exercises near Taiwan and into the Western Pacific on Thursday, as Taiwan's defence minister warned of a growing threat from its giant neighbour.

Last year, China's Parliament staged a rare interpretation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-Constitution, to effectively bar pro-independence city lawmakers from taking office there. - WIRE SERVICES

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