This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
After Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen swept to a landslide victory in Saturday‘s general elections, China said on Monday that the democratic island’s “separatists” would “leave a 10,000-year stink.”
Tsai saw off China’s preferred candidate Han Kuo-yu, garnering more than 57 percent of the total vote after she vowed to defend the island’s way of life against threats, infiltration and saber rattling by China to win a second term in office.
Chinese state councilor and top diplomat Wang Yi said China wouldn’t alter its view on Taiwan as a result of Tsai’s resounding victory, saying it has a “consensus” with the international community that the island is part of China.
“This consensus won’t alter a bit because of a local election on Taiwan, and will not be shaken because of the wrong words and actions of certain Western politicians,” Wang added, in an apparent reference to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who congratulated Tsai for dealing with “unrelenting pressure.”
“Those who split the country will be doomed to leave a stink for 10,000 years,” said Wang, who used to head China’s Taiwan Affairs Office.
Tsai’s election victory came after she stood up to increasingly aggressive rhetoric from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who called last year for “unification,” refusing to rule out the use of force to annex Taiwan.
Tsai responded by saying that Taiwan’s 23 million people — who are ruled under the KMT-founded 1911 Republic of China that fled to the island in 1949 after losing the civil war — have no wish to give up their sovereignty.
Taiwan was part of Japan for 50 years before being handed back to the 1911 regime, and has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, nor has it formed part of the People’s Republic of China.
Tsai also argued that the erosion of democratic progress and civil liberties in Hong Kong under China’s “one country, two systems” means that Taiwan should never take Beijing seriously when it talks about “unification.”
‘Face up to reality’
In Taipei, the Mainland Affairs Council called on Beijing to respect the outcome of the election.
“[Wang] must face up to reality and stop believing his own lies,” the council, an administrative department responsible for handling the relationship with China, said in a statement.
Wu Qiang, a former politics lecturer at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, said Tsai’s re-election could prove to be a fundamental turning point for Taiwan.
He said the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) had failed to address concerns about growing Chinese influence, with Han avoiding the issue entirely during his campaign.
“Tsai Ing-wen resisted Chinese influence with the anti-infiltration law just before the election, defending democracy and opposing one country, two systems,” Wu said. “She was targeting younger voters.”
But he said Beijing is unlikely to soften its stance any time soon.
“There will be no fundamental changes to [China’s] policy on Taiwan for a long time to come,” Wu said.
Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu said Taiwan would have become unrecognizable if Han had been voted in as president on Saturday, and that Hong Kong had indeed served as a warning about one possible future for Taiwan.
“Going by the example of Hong Kong, if Han Kuo-yu had won, a lot of the [freedoms] that people in Taiwan currently enjoy would have changed,” Gao said.
“But the people of Taiwan totally rejected the idea of ‘one country, two systems’ as mooted by the Chinese Communist Party,” she said. “They have defended the sovereignty of 23 million people, as well as their values, their lifestyle and their capitalist system.”
Pressure from China could get worse
U.S.-based legal scholar Teng Biao said Taiwan had made its support for the Hong Kong protest movement abundantly clear, and had taken specific action to support protesters.
“This time the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Tsai Ing-wen prevailed,” Teng told a discussion forum in Taipei on Monday. “It is widely seen as having played a very important role in Hong Kong’s ongoing struggle.”
“But I think Tsai, during the next four years of her presidency, should step up support for Hong Kong, not just moral and verbal support, but also in the form of more specific actions,” he said.
The election followed half a year of protests in Hong Kong, which underscored to Taiwan’s voters the erosion of democratic progress and civil liberties in Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” model that China wants to use to rule Taiwan.
Tsai told journalists at a news conference after her victory was announced on Saturday that she expects pressure from China to continue, and even worsen.
Tsai repeatedly said that Taiwan’s 23 million people — who are ruled under the KMT-founded 1911 Republic of China that fled to the island in 1949 after losing the civil war — have no wish to give up their sovereignty.
During the campaign, security agencies and analysts revealed how China had poured funding, fake news and disinformation into Taiwan ahead of the crucial poll.