Taiwan’s former president Ma Ying-jeou on Wednesday urged the island’s new China-sceptic government to uphold ties with Beijing, as relations with the mainland cool following the ex-leader’s exit.
Ma stepped down in May after eight years in power and he oversaw an unprecedented rapprochement with bitter rival China, which still considers the island part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
But since Beijing-wary Tsai Ing-wen won the presidency in January, ties with China have rapidly deteriorated.
In a pre-recorded speech at the Society of Publishers in Asia awards in Hong Kong Wednesday, aired after Ma was barred from attending the event in person, he emphasised the “dramatic” improvement in cross-strait relations during his tenure.
“I sincerely hope that the new administration will have the required wisdom and courage to maintain the peaceful and prosperous status quo,” he said.
Tsai’s government said Ma was blocked from visiting semi-autonomous Hong Kong because of security risks.
While Ma said he respected the decision, he joked about the move, which he called “curious”.
“I didn’t know that Hong Kong is such a dangerous place,” he said.
Tsai’s spokesman described Hong Kong as a “sensitive area” and said Ma could not attend the event because of his knowledge of state secrets.
Taiwan has been self-ruling since 1949 after a civil war but has never formally declared independence.
Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party is traditionally pro-independence and Beijing is highly suspicious of her administration.
Chinese leaders have repeatedly offered to reunite Taiwan with the mainland using the “one country, two systems” approach adopted to re-integrate Hong Kong and Macau.
Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 under the system.