This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen has vowed not to cave in to growing military threats from China, after Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping once more insisted that the democratic island must “unify” with China, contrary to the wishes of most of its 23 million residents.
Speaking at an Oct. 10 National Day ceremony, Tsai warned against “letting down our guard” in the face of pressure from China.
“The situation in the Indo-Pacific region is becoming more tense and complex by the day,” Tsai warned.
“After taking complete control of Hong Kong and suppressing democracy activists, the Beijing authorities also shifted away from the path of political and economic development that they had followed since reform and opening up began decades ago,” she said.
She said routine Chinese air force sorties in Taiwan’s southwestern air defense identification zone (ADIZ) “has seriously affected both our national security and aviation safety.”
“I want to reiterate that Taiwan is willing to do its part to contribute to the peaceful development of the region,” Tsai said, calling against for government-to-government talks with China, which Beijing has repeatedly refused.
“We … will not act rashly, but there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure,” Tsai said.
“We will continue to bolster our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us,” she said.
“This is because the path that China has laid out offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people.”
‘Unification of the Motherland’
Tsai’s speech came a day after Xi told a conference on the 1911 revolution that toppled the Qing Dynasty and led to the Republic of China under Sun Yat-sen, that he was determined to bring Taiwan under Chinese control.
“The historical task of complete unification of the Motherland must necessarily be realized … without fail,” Xi said, accusing “Taiwan independence forces” of trying to undermine the process.
Taiwan operates as a self-governing state using the Republic of China name, celebrating National Day on Oct. 10. Recent opinion polls continue to show that its 23 million people have no wish to be forced to “unify” with China under the CCP.
Tsai’s speech was backed up with a show of military strength, a flypast of 12 choppers, fighter planes and bombers, an aerobatic display by the Thunder Tigers, and two huge Republic of China flags carried over the presidential palace by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
The parade also wheeled out Taiwan’s homegrown Hsiung Feng III, Hsiung Feng II anti-ship missiles, and Tien Kung III surface-to-air missiles, along with Tien Chien II Surface-to-Air missiles mounted on military trucks.
Authorities in Hong Kong, which has been placed under close political and ideological control by the CCP following the 2019 protest movement, have effectively banned any celebration of democratic Taiwan’s Oct. 10 National Day, a custom with a strong minority following in the city.
Double Tenth warning
Secretary for security Chris Tang warned last month that celebrating the Double Tenth could constitute support for Taiwanese independence — a crime under a draconian national security law imposed on the city by the CCP from July 1, 2020, and at least one restaurant canceled bookings for a planned gathering on Sunday, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.
The “Double Tenth” anniversary marks the beginning of the revolution led by nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen that toppled the last Qing dynasty (1644-1911) emperor, and is marked in mainland China in a fairly low-key manner, with Oct. 1 celebrated as National Day marking the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Zedong in 1949.
Hong Kong has long been home to a community of supporters of the Kuomintang, which is currently Taiwan’s opposition party, but which founded the 1911 Republic of China and took it to Taiwan after losing the civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists in China.
Conflict between KMT supporters and Hong Kong communists led to the Double Tenth Riots of 1956 in Tsuen Wan and Kowloon, in which dozens of people were killed.
Security personnel cordoned off the Red House in Tuen Mun, which once formed a base for anti-Qing activities in Hong Kong, barring anyone from entering the public gardens, according to social media posts.
China’s Kuomintang (KMT) nationalist government under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek relocated to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists on the mainland.
The island began a transition to democracy following the death of Chiang’s son, President Chiang Ching-kuo, in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of a president, Lee Teng-hui, in 1996.
Beijing has threatened to invade if Taiwan seeks formal statehood.