TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took a dig at China’s lack of freedom in a message to mark today’s start of the Lunar New Year, saying she hoped ethnic Chinese all over the world could experience the “blessing” of democracy.
Self-governed Taiwan is China’s most sensitive issue and is claimed by Beijing as its sacred territory.
President Xi Jinping has stepped up pressure on the democratic island since Ms Tsai became president in 2016.
He kicked off 2019 with a speech warning that China reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control, though it will strive for peaceful “reunification”.
Taiwan is able to maintain cultural traditions and is committed to uphold the values of freedom and democracy, Ms Tsai said in the message, posted late on Sunday on her official social media accounts.
“Those in places lacking democracy may not understand this commitment. We hope that ethnic Chinese all over the world can experience this blessing,” she added, without directly mentioning China.
“So I want to make three new year’s wishes for our ethnic Chinese friends both at home and abroad. I hope that you may all enjoy democracy, freedom and continued prosperity.”
There was no immediate reaction from Beijing.