China condemns UK trade minister’s Taiwan visit, saying Britain must ‘stop all exchanges’ with island

China on Monday said it strongly opposed British trade minister Greg Hands's official visit to Taiwan, asking the UK to stop engaging with the island nation.

Mr Hands is expected to hold talks with his Taiwanese counterparts in Taipei on Monday in an effort to “boost trade” and promote UK expertise in hydrogen and offshore wind.

He will meet Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen during his two-day trip and co-host the UK-Taiwan 25th annual Trade Talks, his office said in a statement issued late on Sunday.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing resolutely opposed any form of official exchanges between a country with whom it has diplomatic ties and the island nation.

The UK should “earnestly respect China’s sovereignty, uphold the one-China principle,” Mr Zhao said at a daily briefing.

He added: “We urge the British side to stop any form of official exchanges with Taiwan and stop sending wrong signals to separatist forces for Taiwan independence”.

Beijing maintains that Taiwan is a part of its national territory, even though the island has been self-ruled since 1949 following a civil war.

Taipei has formal diplomatic ties with just 14 nations, a list that does not include Britain. However, the UK maintains a de facto embassy in Taipei to keep up an informal economic relationship with the island nation.

“Visiting Taiwan in person is a clear signal of the UK’s commitment to boosting UK-Taiwan trade ties,” Mr Hands’ office said.

“Like the UK, Taiwan is a champion of free and fair trade underpinned by a rules-based global trading system.

“The talks with deputy minister Chern-Chyi Chen will look at tackling barriers to trade in sectors like fintech, food and drink and pharma, aimed at helping more UK firms export and invest in Taiwan.”

The UK along with Taiwan is bidding to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership after members in February agreed to allow Britain to proceed with its application.

Western lawmakers have been stepping up their visits to Taiwan amid Beijing's beefed-up military activities around the island, which included flying a record number of warplanes across the median line between their two territories in the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing had earlier in retaliation to foreign visits imposed visa bans against foreign officials and governments extending contacts to Taiwan.

China responded most fiercely to US White House speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei in August by staging its largest ever war games around Taiwan.

Beijing resorted to firing missiles over the island into the Western Pacific and positioned aircraft and ships around Taiwan in a simulated blockade.

Following Ms Pelosi's visit, the Chinese foreign minister warned Taiwan officials that “their attempt to seek independence with foreign support is doomed to fail.”