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China's Xi kicks off second term with warning to Taiwan

© Nicolas Asfouri, AFP | China's Xi Jinping delivers a speech during the closing session of the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 20, 2018.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-03-20

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned self-ruled Taiwan on Tuesday that it will face the "punishment of history" for any attempt at separatism, offering his strongest warning yet to the island claimed by China as its sacred territory.

"Every inch of our great motherland absolutely cannot and absolutely will not be separated from China," Xi declared in his speech before the nearly 3,000 members of the National People's Congress.

"All acts and tricks to split the motherland are doomed to failure and will be condemned by the people and punished by history!" he said, adding that China would continue to push for "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan.

Xi is set to shape China for the coming decades after the historic legislative session that closed Tuesday abolished presidential term limits to allow him to rule for as long as he wants.

"Aiming at pro-independence activists in Taiwan and Hong Kong" - Katrina Yu, FRANCE 24 Beijing correspondent

US helps Taiwan with self-defence

His warning to Taiwan comes as hostility towards the self-ruled territory has risen since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen from 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 and is committed to ensuring peace.

China has been infuriated by US President Donald Trump's signing into law legislation last week that encourages the United States to send senior officials to Taiwan to meet Taiwan counterparts, and vice versa.

The United States does not have formal ties with Taiwan but is required by law to help it with self-defence and is the island's primary source of weapons.

In a visit likely to further irritate China, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alex Wong will be in Taiwan this week, the island's foreign ministry said.

China has also been worried about independence activists in the former British colony of Hong Kong following big street protests there in 2014 calling for universal suffrage.

Patriotic spirit

Xi said China would uphold Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, but would also seek to increase "national consciousness and patriotic spirit" in the financial centre.

Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by China, and has accused China of not understanding how democracy works, pointing out that Taiwan's people have the right to decide its future.

The new US law on Taiwan adds to strains between China and the United States over trade, as Trump has enacted tariffs and called for China to reduce its huge trade imbalance with the United States, even while Washington has sought Beijing's help to resolve tension with North Korea.

Taiwan has thanked the United States for the law and its support, but its foreign ministry said on Monday there were no plans for any senior leaders, such as the president, to visit the United States.

While stepped-up Chinese military exercises around Taiwan over the past year have rattled the island, Xi reiterated China's assertion that its rise was not a threat to any country, though China considers Taiwan to be merely a Chinese province not a nation.

"Only those who are in the habit of threatening others will see everyone else as a threat," Xi said.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)

Date created : 2018-03-20

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