The front-runner says Taiwan’s election is about choosing whether or not to embrace China
Written by Ben Blanchard
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s people must choose in elections next year whether the island will continue on the path to democracy or “follow China,” the front-runner to become Taiwan’s next president said on Tuesday.
The issue of China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, looms ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for January 13, especially as Beijing intensifies its military pressure on the island.
Lai Ching-ti, vice president and presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, led in most pre-election polls. The Democratic Progressive Party defends Taiwan’s identity separate from China
The largest opposition party, the Kuomintang, which traditionally favors close ties with Beijing, is locked in a dispute with the smaller Taiwan People’s Party over which of its candidates should run for president and who should run for vice president after initially agreeing to work together. .
Speaking to reporters and supporters after officially registering his candidacy with the Election Commission, Lai said Taiwan’s security is an international issue and that the whole world is watching these elections.
“The people of Taiwan must choose between trusting Taiwan, letting Taiwan continue to advance on the path of democracy, relying on China, following the old path of the one-China principle, and embracing China.” He said.
Beijing has demanded that Taipei accept that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to “one China”, which the Democratic Progressive Party-led government has rejected, saying that only the island’s people can decide its future.
On Monday, Lai announced Hsiao Bi-kim, Taiwan’s former ambassador to the United States, as his deputy.
Like Lai, Hsiao is disliked by China, which has imposed sanctions on her twice, most recently in April, saying she is a “radical for independence.”
Late Monday, Chinese state television criticized Lai-hsiao’s team in a commentary on its website, saying they were “evil people conspiring together.”
“Taiwan independence means war. The Lai-Hsiao Dual Independence Act will intensify cross-Strait tensions and conflict,” he added.
Lai on Monday rejected China’s criticism, saying it was further evidence of Beijing’s efforts to interfere in the election.
Lai, who was standing next to Hsiao outside the election commission, said he felt completely confident.
He added: “We both love this land very much, and we love this country passionately.”
They both wore identical lapel badges featuring a cartoon dog and cat, Lai being a dog lover and Hsiao a cat lover.
The deadline to register for the elections is Friday. It is not yet clear when the opposition will register its candidates.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Editing by Lincoln Feast.)