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China should propose new framework for Taiwan engagement, opposition presidential candidate says

TAIPEI: China should propose a new framework for engagement with Taiwan and explain what Beijing has to offer the democratically-ruled island, according to a presidential candidate for a small opposition party contesting elections in January.

During the run-up to Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary polls, China has stepped up military and political pressure to assert its claim of sovereignty, having never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

Opinion polls show Ko Wen-je, leader of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) competing for second place with Hou Yu-ih, the candidate from the main opposition party, the Kuomintang.

The frontrunner, according to polls, is Lai Ching-te, who took over leadership of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) earlier this year. President Tsai Ing-wen, who leads the DPP government, cannot stand for a third term under Taiwan’s constitution.

The DPP government has repeatedly offered talks with China but has been rebuffed as Beijing views Tsai and the DPP as separatists.

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Speaking to foreign reporters in Taipei, Ko said his bottom line for talks with Beijing is to maintain the island’s free and democratic political system and way of life.

“If mainland China has a new offer, they should make a new proposal. It’s their obligations, not mine,” Ko said when asked about how he planned to restart talks with China, which have been frozen since the DPP government took office in 2016.

Ko said Beijing’s current offer to rule Taiwan under the “one country, two systems” model similar to that of Hong Kong has no appeal for the Taiwanese people.

Ko said Beijing should define what “one China” means – whether it is political, or economic.

“We will not deny that Taiwan is part of the Chinese culture circle. So I will tell the Beijing government that we share the same history, language, religion and culture,” Ko said, adding economic cooperation with China was also negotiable.

“But politically, at this moment, there’s nothing we can do.”

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