Relations between China and Taiwan have chilled significantly since Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won the island’s presidency in January. Beijing has since warned Taiwan that any cross-strait conflict would be blamed on Tsai and her new government. The Chinese government suspended formal diplomatic contacts with Taiwan after Tsai’s government failed to endorse the “one China” principle. However, Tsai announced on Saturday that unofficial communication channels with China remain open. Faith Hung at Reuters reports:
“While the official mechanism of communication has not been restored, unofficial communication channels with the mainland remain available,” she told reporters, without elaborating.
“We hope both sides maintain stability, so there won’t be any misunderstanding or misjudgment on either side,” she said.
Tsai, who heads the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, reiterated she wanted to maintain the status quo in cross-strait relations, but said “there is no magic medicine” to resolve the existing strains. [Source]
One instance of continued contact was last week’s municipal-level visit by Shanghai propaganda chief Sha Hailin, which independence activists greeted with protests at multiple locations in Taipei. From AFP:
Sha Hailin, a standing committee member of the Communist Party in the city and head of the United Front Work Department in China’s commercial capital, is the highest-level mainlander to visit since cross-strait ties worsened under Taiwan’s new government.
He arrived in Taipei for an annual forum on municipal exchanges as protesters shouted “Sha Hailin, go back to China!” at the capital’s Songshan airport.
Dozens of demonstrators waved placards reading “Expel propaganda communist, defend Taiwan’s sovereignty” and “(Taipei mayor) Ko Wen-je sells out Taiwan”. Some supporters also rallied outside the airport with welcome signs.
[…] Scores of protesters rallied again when Sha visited a high school to open a sports festival and played table tennis with Taiwanese students.
[…] “We are very angry and we refuse China‘s propaganda to reunify Taiwan. Taiwan is an independent country. We must maintain our sovereignty and dignity,” said protester Sherry Huang from the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) party. [Source]
On Sunday, Tsai withdrew her nominations of Hsieh Wen-ting and Lin Jin-fang for top posts in the Taiwan judiciary, a development that some see as an indication that Tsai is “losing control” of Taiwan’s pro-independence groups. From Lawrence Chung at South China Morning Post:
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is facing what analysts view as the biggest challenge to her authority since taking office after she reluctantly withdrew her nominations for the top posts in the island’s judiciary.
Analysts said the withdrawal was the result of Tsai losing her popularity, thereby allowing the hardcore pro-independence camp to challenge her authority.
Political observers said the harsh criticism Tsai had endured from supporters and the withdrawal of the nominations were a sign she was losing control of the pro-independence or “green” camp in Taiwanese politics.
All this comes as a new poll released on Monday shows Tsai’s approval rating slipping below 50 per cent for the first time since she took office in May.
[…] Hsieh, who heads the Public Functionary Disciplinary Sanction Commission, and Lin, the secretary general of the Judicial Yuan, have come under fire from the green camp since Tsai nominated the two in July. [Source]
Elsewhere, Kris Cheng at HKFP reports that three Taiwanese political figures have been banned from traveling to Hong Kong to attend an upcoming forum. The mounting cross-strait tension has also had a negative impact on Taiwan’s tourist industry, with the number of mainland visitors to Taiwan continuing to fall. Meanwhile, an envoy from Taiwan is set to visit the Vatican in the coming weeks to strengthen ties with the Holy See as Pope Francis works to improve relations with China.