BEIJING: A state-run mainland Chinese newspaper denounced Taiwan’s opposition leader and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen as narrow-minded and selfish on Monday after she criticized a historic meeting between the leaders of the two sides.
Presidents Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou shook hands in Singapore Saturday, marking a symbolic step towards closing the rift that has separated Beijing and Taipei since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
But the occasion also highlighted the tensions that remain across the Taiwan strait — China still has an estimated 1,500 missiles aimed at stopping the island from declaring its independence.
Tsai, head of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), blasted Ma for failing to stand up for Taiwan’s democracy and freedom at the meeting and for not describing the island as the Republic of China, the official title it gives itself.
In a post on her official Facebook page Sunday, she accused Ma of trying to “limit Taiwan’s future… to achieve his own political status.”
The Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to China’s ruling Communist Party, said in an editorial Monday that she had “made gaffes,” describing her as “wrathful” in an attempt to “belittle the meeting.”
She had “exposed her support for ‘Taiwan Independence’,” it added — anathema to Beijing.
“Tsai’s demand has revealed her narrow mind and extreme political selfishness of putting votes above peaceful development across the Straits,” the paper said.
Relations between Beijing and Taipei have improved dramatically since Ma’s 2008 election, with increases in trade and tourism, as well as the start of direct flights.
But popular concern about Beijing’s influence is growing on the island and the DPP, which has long called for a split with the mainland, looks set to win January’s presidential election.
The Global Times warned of “powerful countermoves from the mainland” if Tsai pursues the island’s independence once taking office.
“She may have a quicker and uglier defeat if she doesn’t learn from Chen’s being crushed,” it said, referring to former Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian of the DPP.
Chen was imprisoned for 20 years in 2008 on corruption charges, but was released on medical parole in January.
“The future of Taiwan must be decided by 1.3 billion Chinese, including those in Taiwan,” it said.
A DPP spokesman said the party had no immediate comment on the Global Times editorial.