Sat, Dec 07, 2019 - Page 3 News List

China too busy with slowing economy, Hong Kong to worry about Taiwan: Ko

By Ben Blanchard  /  Reuters

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je yesterday speaks at an event in Taipei marking the completion of a widening project for the Chengkung Bridge, which connects the city’s Neihu and Nangang districts.

Photo: Fang Bin-chao, Taipei Times

China has too many other issues to worry about at the moment, from protests in Hong Kong to a slowing economy, to give much thought to Taiwan, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said on Thursday.

Ko, who has advocated for better relations with China, told reporters that while Taiwan was important to China, it was not currently the “core issue” that Beijing likes to portray.

“They say that Taiwan is a core issue, but I’m very clear that it isn’t. Taiwan is not China’s core issue,” he said.

“In comparison to Hong Kong, to Xinjiang, Taiwan is not on the top of the priority list. For mainland China, there are their economic problems, their GDP has already fallen to below 7 percent,” Ko added in an interview, in which he switched between Mandarin and English.

Chinese-ruled Hong Kong has been rocked by anti-government protests for nearly six months, the biggest challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) since he took charge in 2012.

China has come under international opprobrium for locking up 1 million or more Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang as part of what Beijing has called a de-radicalization program.

In any case, the US — Taiwan’s most important international backer even in the absence of diplomatic ties — would not let Taiwan become formally independent or be taken over by China, Ko said.

Ko, who this year formed the Taiwan People’s Party, said that it was still too early for him to say if he would run for president in 2024, adding that he would decide when his mayoral term ends in three years.

“Do what you should do now and let God decide,” he said.

A surgeon turned politician, Ko is known for his colorful personal style. Last year he made a rap video for his mayoral re-election campaign called Do the Right Thing, which quickly went viral.

Ko has sought his own path between Taiwan’s two main political parties, the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which favors close ties with China.

Visiting the US earlier this year, Ko told the Heritage Foundation that Taiwan can be close to the US, but also friendly with China.

In July, Ko traveled to Shanghai to meet with Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong (應勇). While there, he reiterated previous comments that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait “are one family.”

Ko said that he has no plans so far to go to China next year.

Senior Chinese leaders are always on their guard in such meetings, as if you make a mistake in China “you will be disappeared from the world,” he added, with a laugh.

“They were very, very nervous when they talked with me, because I’m very unpredictable. We’re very easy. We say what we think. They can’t. They’re very rigid,” Ko said.

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