The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will never renounce the use of force on Taiwan, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said on Oct. 16 while he opened an important Party meeting.
Held every five years, the CCP’s 20th Party conference kicked off in Beijing on Sunday amid public frustration fueled by escalated COVID-19 restrictions at home and international criticism against the CCP’s aggression toward Taiwan.
During the week-long meeting, the next round of the Party’s top leadership will be unveiled. Xi, 69, is likely to secure a record-breaking third five-year term in office, cementing his place as the Party’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the party conference, Xi touted the CCP’s achievement during what he called an “extremely uncommon and abnormal” five years.
Xi defended the CCP’s zero-COVID policy and argued the approach protected people’s lives and economy but made no mention of how the strict policy damaged the country’s economy and inflicted pain on its people.
Reaffirming the Party’s hard stance, Xi said China would “never promise to renounce the use of force” on Taiwan, angering the self-ruled island which vowed to defend its sovereignty and democracy.
Xi delivered a roughly two-hour speech, a time that was considerably shorter than his remarks in 2017, which lasted more than three hours.
During the speech, the words “security” and “safety” appeared more frequently than five years ago. According to a transcript published by the official news agency Xinhua, Xi mentioned the two words 73 times Sunday, up from 55 times in the 2017’s meeting. While he mentioned food security and supply chain security, the emphasis was given to “national security.”
The pivotal political event came amid growing international criticism of the CCP’s human rights violations in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and its harassment of Taiwan. In the lead-up to the conference, lawmakers across the world called democratic countries to hold the CCP accountable for its human rights abuses. In an Oct. 14 statement, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China said the meeting reveals the CCP will consolidate its authoritarian rule over the country, which means China would continue to be a “threat to human rights and the peace and stability of the international rules based order.”
The loudest applause during the meeting came when Xi emphasized the CCP’s opposition to Taiwan’s independence.
Taiwan, a self-ruled island the CCP claims as its own territory, has endured escalated military, political, and economic pressure from Beijing in recent months. Beijing launched live fire drills and launched 11 ballistic missiles into the waters around Taiwan after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August.
Speaking in Beijing, Xi touted the CCP’s provocations as a demonstration of its “determination and ability” to fight against “separatist forces.”
“The complete reunification of our country must be realized, and it can without a doubt be realized,” Xi said.
In response, Taiwan said it’s a sovereign country, and it’ll not back down on defending its democracy and freedom.
“Taiwan’s position is firm: no backing down on national sovereignty, no compromise on democracy and freedom, and meeting on the battlefield is absolutely not an option for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait,” Chang Tun-han, spokesperson of Taiwan’s Presidential Office Spokesperson said in a Sunday statement.
“This is the consensus of Taiwan’s people,” read the statement. It added Taiwan’s national security team would be closely watching the developments during the weeklong party conference.
During Sunday’s address at the opening ceremony, Xi said the CCP “prioritized the people and their lives above all else, and tenaciously pursued [a] dynamic zero-Covid policy in launching all-out people’s war against the virus.”
Xi’s remarks appear to dash the hopes of Chinese people who are looking for signs of loosening the zero-COVID policy. The draconian approach aims to eliminate every infection among communities through strict lockdowns, repeated testings, and mass surveillance.
Weeks ahead of the conference, CCP officials across China ratcheted up travel restrictions and lockdowns though only a handful of cases were reported. At least 36 Chinese cities have been placed under some level of restrictions or lockdown, affecting around 196.9 million people, according to an estimate by Japanese bank Nomura on Oct. 10.
Such curbs frustrated the public and led to rare protests in the country. With just two days left to the meeting, two big banners bearing slogans, including a call for Xi’s ouster and an end to the draconian zero-COVID policy, were unfurled in the political center amid tight security.
Chinese activists suggested the COVID-19 restrictions are aimed at strengthening the CCP’s control rather than containing outbreaks.
“The epidemic is less severe than influenza,” Zhao Changqing, a human rights activist, told The Epoch Times on Sunday.
According to Zhao, there are more tragedies as a result of strict curb measures rather than the virus itself. In Tibet, where some cities endured a 50-day lockdown last month, the inhuman lockdown led at least five people to kill themselves, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, a human rights advocacy group.
Zhao said the rare protest in Beijing demonstrates the rising desire among the public for the removal of measures of social control.
“Through fascist-style pressure and control, the CCP is preventing the fight against its tyranny from spreading,” said Zhao.
Reuters and Luo Ya contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times