Taiwan urged to keep ties

CHINA urged Taiwan (台灣) to protect the gains of landmark cooperation between the mainland and the self-ruled island after Taiwan’s pro-Beijing ruling party was routed in local elections.

The defeat in Saturday’s elections of the Kuomintang (KMT, 國民黨), which lost nine cities and counties including its longtime strongholds Taipei (台北), the capital, and the major central city of Taichung (台中), led to the resignation of Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), who heads the Cabinet (內閣). President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) promised to make changes.

The election losses could jeopardise six years of talks with China that have led to 21 agreements, helping to lift Taiwan’s half-trillion-dollar economy, while raising Beijing’s (北京) hopes for political reunification. Beijing has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but since taking office in 2008, Ma has set aside the old disputes to ease tensions through talks.

A top Chinese official on Saturday night urged people in Taiwan to protect those gains.

“We hope compatriots across the Strait will cherish hard-won fruits of cross-strait relations, and jointly safeguard and continue to push forward peaceful development of cross-strait relations,” said Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光), spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office (國務院台灣事務辦公室).

Taiwanese citizens have been watching closely as Beijing takes a hardline stance on demands for democratic rule in Hong Kong, which has been gripped by more than two months of pro-democracy protests.

The heavy losses will make it tougher for Ma and the KMT to hold on to power in 2016.

“I must express apologies to the KMT and its supporters for making everyone disappointed,” Ma told a news conference. “I’ve received the message people have sent via these elections. It’s my responsibility and I will quickly offer a party reform plan to address everyone’s demands. I won’t avoid responsibility.”

The chief opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, 民主進步黨) picked up seven offices in Saturday’s elections. It favours continuing talks with China’s Communist (中國共產黨) leadership, but disputes the dialogue framework that binds the two sides under Beijing’s jurisdiction, preferring talks in an international setting.