Beijing is trying to send a strong signal ahead of the inauguration of Taiwan’s new president Tsai Ing-wen, who has flirted with the possibility of declaring independence from the mainland. Reuters:
In the past few weeks, China has established ties with former Taiwan ally Gambia, sent a top general to inspect troops based in a frontline province and scooped up dozens of Taiwanese from Kenya wanted in China for fraud – a move denounced by Taipei as being more about politics than crime.
And Taiwan said a hotline meant to expedite direct communication between the top government officials dealing with each other’s affairs had not been answered by China twice at critical times of late.
Tsai has been quiet about her plans regarding Taiwan’s number one foreign policy concern, but she was careful not to campaign on declaring independence even though many in her party support it.
Taiwan’s government considers itself the true sovereign authority of China, having never submitted to communist rule. As a result, it has never formally declared independence from the mainland. Beijing meanwhile, believes that Taiwan is part of the Chinese state and has long refused to recognize the legitimacy of its rulers.
Last weekend, Taiwanese prosecutors responded to Beijing’s actions. Reuters:
Taiwan prosecutors angered China over the weekend by freeing 20 Taiwanese suspected of defrauding Chinese nationals in a telecoms scam but on Thursday changed their minds, taking most of them into custody on suspicion of committing “serious crime”.
The move came as island officials are in Beijing this week to negotiate the return of 45 of its citizens who were forcibly sent to China from Kenya and linked to a similar telephone fraud case abroad against Chinese nationals.
Taiwan and China had been working to improve relations over the past few years under the outgoing administration, so this is a big story to follow this year.