China signalled hardening its stance on Hong Kong, Taiwan

Vastavam web: China signalled today it was hardening its stance on dissent in Taiwan and Hong Kong, where it faces growing frustration with the increasingly authoritarian government of President Xi Jinping.In a report to the opening session of the annual National People’s Congress in Beijing, Premier Li Keqiang warned China “will never tolerate any separatist schemes” in Taiwan, amid increasing tensions between the mainland and the self-ruled island.

The report said Beijing would continue to uphold its “one China” principle and promote “peaceful growth” relations with Taiwan under the 1992 consensus, which agrees that there is only one China without specifying whether Beijing or Taipei is its rightful representative.China still sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification. It has cut off official communications with Taipei because President Tsai Ing-wen refuses to acknowledge the democratic island as part of “one China”.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which handles relations with China, said in response the island wants to “maintain the peaceful and stable status quo in the Taiwan Strait”.”We urge China to adopt forward-looking and innovative positive thinking regarding the development of cross-strait relations,” it said in a statement.Last year the section of the report on governing the former European colonies said they would be allowed “a high degree of autonomy”, a statement in keeping with past years, but this year’s report omitted the phrase.

While this year’s report referred to the “One country, two systems” concept, it no longer said it would “steadfastly” apply the principle.The change may seem minor but silence speaks volumes in a system where government documents are edited down to the last comma.But there are fears these freedoms are under threat from Beijing.

Tanya Chan, a pro-democracy lawmaker in the city, said the omission of the mention of Hong Kong people governing themselves was no mistake.”I don’t think any omission is without purpose, especially when Hong Kong people are concerned about autonomy and the whole system,” she told AFP.”I worry about whether the Chinese government still respects these very important promises,” Chan added, predicting more “serious and overt” intervention by Beijing.