China’s President Xi Jinping made a strong call for unity among all people of Chinese descent on Friday, amid political turmoil in Hong Kong and rising independence sentiment in self-governing Taiwan. Xi spoke on the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sun Yat-sen, China’s first president and the godfather of Chinese nationalism, who continues to command broad respect within China and the Chinese diaspora.
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Speaking to an audience of officials and military officers at the colossal Great Hall of the People in central Beijing, Xi called on Taiwan’s leaders to endorse the principle that the island and mainland China are parts of a single Chinese nation.
“Any party, organization or individual in Taiwan, no matter what they proposed in the past, as long as they acknowledge the ’92 consensus and that the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China, we would like to make exchanges with them,” Xi said, referring to a 1992 agreement that laid the foundation for talks between the two long-time antagonists.
China, Xi said, would “never allow anyone, any organization, any party to split out any piece of land of China at any time and in any way.” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has refused to endorse the ’92 consensus, prompting Beijing to cut contacts with her government and broaden its outreach to the opposition Nationalist Party that formally backs eventual unification.
Tsai scored a decisive win in January’s presidential election, while her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party gained a majority in the legislature representing the island of 23 million people that split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949.
Beijing has also registered alarm over anti-China sentiment in Hong Kong among newly elected members of its legislative council.
China’s top legislature this week took the rare step of intervening directly in a local Hong Kong political dispute by effectively barring two legally elected separatist lawmakers from taking office, setting the stage for further turmoil in the semi-autonomous city.