China will attack Taiwan if there is no other way of stopping it from becoming independent, the ruling Communist Party’s third most senior leader said on Friday.
Li Zhanshu, who is also the head of China’s parliament, made the comment on the 15th anniversary of the Anti-Secession Law, which gives China the legal basis for military action against Taiwan if it secedes.
“If the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost, the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to resolutely smash any separatist plots or actions. We do not promise to abandon the use of force, and reserve the option to take all necessary measures, to stabilise and control the situation in the Taiwan Strait”, Li said.
Beijing refuses to acknowledge the sovereignty of the country, born of a civil war in China that brought Mao Zedong’s Communists to power on the mainland in 1949. The rival Nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, fled to Taiwan, about 160 kilometres off China’s east coast.
Even though Taiwan has never declared independence, it has had its own government since 1949. It also has its own foreign ministry and military. China refuses diplomatic relations with countries that recognise Taiwan and regularly conducts military exercises in the island’s vicinity, a move seen as Beijing’s provocation.
Li’s comments come a day after China’s parliament approved a decision to impose national security laws on Hong Kong, sparking international outcry, as well as violent protests and clashes with security forces.
Since last year, Hong Kong has been rocked by often violent pro-democracy protests. The new law will alter Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, or Basic Law, to require its government to enforce measures to be decided later by Chinese leaders. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council on Thursday said that Beijing had betrayed its promises made to the Hong Kong people for a “high degree of autonomy” after the 1997 handover from British rule.
Speaking of the 2005 Anti-Secession Law, Li said: “We warn Taiwan’s pro-independence and separatist forces sternly, the path of Taiwan independence leads to a dead end; any challenge to this law will be severely punished”.
Taiwan’s government warned that threats of war were a violation of international law: “Taiwan’s people will never choose dictatorship nor bow to violence”, the council said.