An influential group of British members of parliament referred to Taiwan as an “independent country” in a report issued Wednesday as British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is visiting China.
The language was used in a report issued by the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Commons, Britain’s lower house of parliament. According to POLITICO, it marked the first time British lawmakers referred to Taiwan as an “independent country” in an official government document.
“Taiwan is already an independent country, under the name Republic of China,” the report says. “Taiwan possesses all the qualifications for statehood, including a permanent population, a defined territory, government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states — it is only lacking greater international recognition.”
The report drew a stern rebuke from Beijing, as the status of Taiwan is a major red line for China. “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. “The relevant report of the British parliament blatantly referred to Taiwan as ‘an independent country,’ which distorts the facts and is totally misleading.”
Conservative Party MP Alicia Kearns, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told POLITICO that “we acknowledge China’s position, but we do not accept it.” She added that it’s “imperative the foreign secretary steadfastly and vocally stand by Taiwan and make clear we will uphold Taiwan’s right to self-determination.”
According to Taipei Times, Cleverly downplayed the report, saying that it’s “not a UK government document” and adding that London’s stance “has remained consistent that there should be no unilateral change to the status quo.”
The report took aim at the government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for its China policy. “The UK could pursue closer relations with Taiwan if it were not over-cautious about offending the [Chinese Communist Party],” the report reads. “The UK should loosen self-imposed restrictions on who can interact with Taiwanese officials. The US and Japan have shown that communication is possible even at the highest level.”
Unlike the US, the UK has never had formal relations with Taiwan and recognized the Beijing-based People’s Republic of China in 1950, not long after Chaing Kai-shek’s nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949, ceding the mainland to Mao Zedong’s communists. Britain and the PRC established full diplomatic relations in 1972.