March 5, 2016 / 2:25 AM / in 2 years

China premier says to oppose Taiwan 'separatist' activities

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will oppose Taiwan independence “separatist” activities and safeguard peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, Premier Li Keqiang said on Saturday, following the victory of an independence-leaning party in the island’s elections in January.

China's Premier Li Keqiang gives a speech during the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China, March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-hoon

China considers Taiwan a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after the Chinese civil war.

Beijing has repeatedly warned against any moves towards independence since January’s landslide win by Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Tsai has said she would maintain peace with China, and Chinese state-run media have also noted her pledges to maintain the “status quo” with China.

Speaking at the opening of the annual meeting of China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament, Li said China remained committed to its “major policies” on Taiwan.

“We will ... oppose separatist activities for the independence of Taiwan, safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, maintain the peaceful growth of cross-strait relations and safeguard peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” he added.

Li made no direction mention of Tsai, who assumes office in May.

The past eight years have been marked by calm between China and Taiwan, after the election of the China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou as president in 2008 and his subsequent re-election.

Ma signed a series of key economic deals with Beijing and held a landmark meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November in neutral Singapore.

But a controversial trade pact has languished in the island’s parliament after protests in 2014 over trade dealings with Beijing.

Li said Beijing would “strive to make progress on cross-strait economic integration” and strengthen exchanges between ordinary people and the younger generation.

Turning to another troublesome area for Beijing, Li said he was also convinced the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macao would maintain their long-term prosperity and stability.

Pro-democracy protesters shut down central parts of the former British colony for 79 days in late 2014 and anti-Beijing feeling continues in the Hong Kong.

Last month police arrested more than 60 people during riots at the start of the Lunar New Year blamed by Beijing on “radical separatists”.

The riots erupted when authorities tried to remove illegal street stalls set up for Lunar New Year celebrations.

Reporting by Michael Martina and James Pomfret; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ed Davies and Kim Coghill

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