The Chinese government says a visit by five Canadian MPs to Taiwan amounts to gross interference in China’s internal affairs.
The delegation, led by veteran Liberal MP Judy Sgro, has been in Taiwan since Sunday to demonstrate solidarity with the self-governed island.
In August, Taiwan was encircled by China with provocative military drills that included firing ballistic missiles over the island – Beijing’s way of expressing its displeasure with a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In a statement to The Globe and Mail, China’s embassy in Canada said the visit by Ms. Sgro and others will only encourage supporters of independence in Taiwan.
For decades, Taiwan has lived under the threat of invasion from China. Beijing’s authoritarian rulers consider Taiwan a breakaway province, even though the Chinese Communist Party, which seized power on the mainland more than 70 years ago, has never governed the island. Beijing has not ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
The Chinese embassy said the Canadian parliamentarians are ignoring China’s wishes.
“Despite China’s stern position, Judy A. Sgro and four other Canadian parliament members persist in visiting the Taiwan region of China,” the embassy said in a statement. This “blatantly violates the one-China principle, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs and sends a seriously wrong signal to the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces.”
The man who will shape the future: China’s Xi Jinping prepares for a second decade in power
Canada has not recognized Taiwan as a sovereign state since 1970, when then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau switched diplomatic relations to the People’s Republic of China.
While China considers Taiwan part of its territory, Canada has never officially expressed support for this. In a 1970 communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations, Canada did not endorse Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is an “inalienable part” of China; it merely said it “takes note of this position.”
Ms. Sgro, chair of the Canada-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group, is visiting Taiwan with a cross-party group that includes Liberal MP Angelo Iacono, Conservative MPs Chris Lewis and Richard Martel and Bloc Québécois MP Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay.
They have met with President Tsai Ing-wen and Vice-President Lai Ching-te and participated in Monday celebrations to mark the island’s national day. The MPs also explored ways to boost economic ties between Canada and Taiwan.
The Chinese embassy said the delegation amounts to an official exchange between Canada and Taiwan – something it rejects.
“China has consistently and firmly opposed any form of official exchanges between the Taiwan region and countries having diplomatic ties with China,” it said.
The embassy reaffirmed that Beijing considers Taiwan an “inalienable part of China’s territory” and said this is the “political foundation on which China develops relations with other countries, including Canada.”
It added that “China will continue to take resolute and strong measures to defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and oppose the interference by external forces in China’s internal affairs.”
But despite its harsh words, it did not announce any repercussions for Canada.
Ms. Sgro, reached in Taipei, declined to comment.
Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said he thinks Beijing is misinterpreting Canada’s policy on Taiwan and also trying to redefine what is considered unacceptable conduct by foreign states.
He said Taiwanese and Canadian legislators have visited each other’s parliament for decades without incident.
“It’s Beijing that has changed its policy, not Canada,” Mr. Chong said.
“Our policy isn’t that we recognize Beijing’s claim over Taiwan, our policy is simply that we have diplomatic relations with one government, which is China.”
Polls in Taiwan suggest few Taiwanese want to join China. Taiwan is where Nationalist forces retreated in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists.
An April, 2022, poll by the independent and non-partisan Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation found 80.1 per cent of respondents identify solely as Taiwanese. Another 10.2 per cent see themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese. Only 5.3 per cent view themselves as solely Chinese.
An August poll by the same foundation found that only 11.8 per cent of respondents favoured “unification” with China. Fifty per cent of those surveyed said they would instead opt for independence, and 25.7 per cent backed the status quo. Taiwan has not officially declared independence from China, and Beijing has vowed to invade if it ever does so.
No major political party in Taiwan has pledged to declare official independence from China.