China hits out at G7 leaders over Taiwan statement

China has accused G7 leaders of meddling in its internal affairs after the group of leading industrialised nations backed participation by Taiwan at World Heath Organization forums and criticised Beijing’s record on human rights and erosion of democracy in Hong Kong.

In a communique released after the G7 foreign ministers held two days of talks in London, all seven countries for the first time voiced unified support for Taiwan participating in the WHO forums and the World Health Assembly, the organisation’s policymaking body.

The G7 statement said the international community “should be able to benefit from the experience of all partners, including Taiwan’s successful contribution to the tackling of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The Chinese foreign ministry on Thursday condemned the G7 statement as a “gross interference” in its internal affairs.

“The G7 foreign ministers’ baseless accusations against China . . . [are] bloc politics trying to turn back the wheel of history,” it said.

Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan, a self-governed island of 24m. The administration of US president Joe Biden has taken a range of actions to shore up support for Taiwan in the face of aggressive Chinese military activity and make it easier for Taiwan to operate on the world stage.

Washington has warned China that its support for Taiwan is “rock solid”. Earlier this year the US conducted a rare dual aircraft carrier exercise in the South China Sea to send a message to Beijing about its commitment.

The G7 communique marked another example of Biden seeking to work with allies to counter Chinese behaviour.

The G7 also criticised Beijing over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet and its erosion of democratic elections in Hong Kong, and warned against its role in cyber-enabled intellectual property theft.

The Chinese foreign ministry said Taiwan’s participation in WHO events must be handled in accordance with the “one China” principle, in a reference to a 1992 agreement between semi-official envoys from Beijing and Taipei that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to “One China”.

Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive party is unwilling to recognise the agreement, but Beijing regards the policy formula as a precondition for dialogue.

Beijing in 1997 blocked Taiwan from participating in WHO forums. From 2009 to 2016, during a thaw between Beijing and Taiwan’s Kuomintang government under Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwanese delegates were allowed to join as observers under the name “Chinese Taipei”.

But Beijing has reverted to barring Taiwan’s participation since Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese president and leader of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive party, took power in Taipei in 2016.

Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan’s US ambassador, tweeted on Wednesday that the G7 statement on Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO “means a lot”.

Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO fed into tensions between the US and China early last year after officials in Taipei said the organisation had failed to respond to its warnings about the severity of the then unknown pneumonia caused by the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The G7 statement also voiced “strong opposition to any unilateral actions that could escalate tensions” in the Taiwan Strait.

The Chinese military has over the past year escalated the frequency and scale of military drills in waters near Taiwan, as well as incursions by fighter jets and bombers into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. Such displays of force have not been seen since a 1996 stand-off when Beijing fired missiles to the north and south of the island.

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