Taiwan presidential hopeful Han Kuo-yu says ‘no peace deal with Beijing until threats end’

Lawrence Chung

Taiwanese presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu said on Thursday that if elected he will not sign a peace agreement with Beijing until it renounces the use of force against the democratic island.

The representative of the mainland-friendly Kuomintang said also that he would seek the opinions of the public before agreeing to talks with Beijing on issues concerning relations across the Taiwan Strait.

In his first briefing to the foreign media in Taiwan, Han – who will challenge incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party in the January 11 poll – gave a comprehensive summary of his position on key issues, including cross-strait relations, Hong Kong and the United States.

On relations with Beijing, he said Tsai’s policies had resulted in an increase in tensions between the two sides, which had been economically, politically and diplomatically disadvantageous for the island.

“Were I elected, I am quite confident that I would be able to reopen talks and exchanges with the mainland,” he said.

Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province awaiting reunification with the mainland, by force if necessary. It suspended official exchanges with Taipei after Tsai was elected in 2016 and refused to accept the “1992 consensus”, which allows for talks between the two sides on the understanding that Taiwan acknowledges there is only “one China”, though it can choose how that is defined.

Han said that unlike Tsai, whom Beijing does not trust because of her party’s pro-independence stance, he believed Beijing would tacitly agree to his use of the “1992 consensus with different interpretations” as the political foundation for talks.

However, he denied being Beijing’s “preferred candidate”, saying that the term had been coined by his opponents in a bid to convince voters that if elected he would sell out to the mainland.

On the subject of a peace deal with the mainland, Han said: “As long as the Chinese Communist side refuses to renounce the use of force against us, it is impossible for me to sign such an agreement.”

He also dismissed local news reports that he was unconcerned about the months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

“I feel sad seeing things going on like this … police firing at protesters and breaking into university campuses, which violates the universal practice of campus autonomy,” he said.

“I suggest that the Hong Kong government allows Hongkongers to have general elections so that they can elect the people they want directly,” he said, though added that the polls must not be a move towards independence for the city.

Asked if he supported “one country, two systems” as advocated by Chinese President Xi Jinping as a model for future unification talks, Han said: “No, I don’t … and no one in Taiwan supports that.”

And on whether he would opt for an improvement in cross-strait ties at the expense of the island’s healthy relations with the United States, Han said that both Beijing and Washington were “important to Taiwan”.

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