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Taiwanese president with tough stance on China wins second term in office

Tsai Ing-wen soundly defeated her rival Nationalist Party candidate.

President Tsai Ing-wen has taken a hard line on China (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)
President Tsai Ing-wen has taken a hard line on China (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

By Elaine Kurtenbach and Johnson Lai

Taiwan’s independence-leaning president Tsai Ing-wen has won a second term in office with a landslide victory, signalling strong voter support for her tough stance against China.

Ms Tsai took 57.2% of the vote to soundly defeat two challengers, Han Kuo-yu of the rival Nationalist Party and James Soong of the smaller People First Party.

She wasted no time in warning communist-ruled China, which views Taiwan as a renegade province, not to try to use threats of force against the self-governed island.

After her victory was confirmed, she said: “Today I want to once again remind the Beijing authorities that peace, parity, democracy and dialogue are the keys to stability.

Supporters of re-elected president Tsai Ing-wen celebrate her victory (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

“I want the Beijing authorities to know that democratic Taiwan and our democratically-elected government will never concede to threats.

“I hope that Beijing will show its goodwill.”

Voters chose Ms Tsai’s position on China over Mr Han’s arguments for friendlier ties.

Taiwan has developed its own identity since separating from China during civil war in 1949 but has never declared formal independence.

Beijing still claims sovereignty over the island of 23 million people and threatens to use force to seize control if necessary.

Given China’s efforts to isolate Taiwan during Ms Tsai’s first term, she acknowledged her victory is likely to lead to further deadlock and pressure from Beijing.

But Ms Tsai said the results of the election prove the Taiwan people are committed to defending their democracy and way of life.

Han Kuo-yu congratulated Ms Tsai on her victory (AP)

The mood was jubilant at the headquarters of her Democratic Progressive Party in the capital Taipei, with supporters cheering as the results were announced.

At a gathering in Kaohsiung, where Mr Han is mayor, the mood was much grimmer.

Mr Han, 62, told disappointed supporters he had called to congratulate Ms Tsai on her victory, and he vowed to return to his job as mayor with renewed vigour.

Months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, have driven home to many in Taiwan the contrast between their democratically-governed island and authoritarian, communist-ruled mainland China.

While Mr Han and the Nationalist Party have said Taiwan should be more open to negotiations with China, Ms Tsai and the Democratic Progressive Party insist the Hong Kong protests show the “one country, two systems” approach Beijing has championed for governing both that former British colony and Taiwan is unworkable.

Supporters of Tsai Ing-wen were jubilant after her re-election was confirmed (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has sought to compel Ms Tsai’s government to endorse Beijing’s insistence that Taiwan is part of China.

Ms Tsai has refused to do so, maintaining that Beijing has no claim over Taiwan while calling for a reopening of talks between the two sides without preconditions.

Since its transition to full democracy beginning in the 1980s, Taiwan has increasingly asserted its independent identity from China even though it is not recognised by the United Nations or any major nation.

The island exercises all the roles of a sovereign nation, issuing its own passports, maintaining its own military and legal system and serving as a crucial hub in the global hi-tech supply chain.



From Belfast Telegraph