6 June 2024

China’s defence ministry on Thursday accused Taiwan’s leadership of “hyping up” claims that Beijing is interfering in the self-ruled island’s upcoming presidential election. 

Taipei officials have repeatedly raised concerns about election interference and misinformation, and the January 13 vote comes during an escalating pressure campaign by Beijing, which claims the island as part of its territory.

But on Thursday Beijing said “the DPP authorities have been hyping up that China’s mainland is interfering in its elections”, using the initials of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Defence ministry spokesperson Wu Qian told a press conference Taipei was trying to “stoke confrontation and manipulate the election”.

Several Chinese balloons have been detected moving across the sensitive median line separating Taiwan from China throughout December, Taipei has said.

Asked about the balloons on Thursday, Wu dismissed allegations of interference.

Taipei’s claims, he said, were “all familiar pages from their old playbook” but “more and more people in Taiwan” saw through them.

His comments came the same day as a CNN report about popular Taiwanese band Mayday being pressured to make pro-China comments, citing Taipei security officials.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Councils — which handles cross-strait issues — accused Chinese authorities on Thursday of “forcing individuals from international cultural, performing arts and sports sectors… to express their political stance… in exchange for opportunities to perform or compete in China”.

“This has been going on for many years,” the council said in a statement.

“We believe that the band (Mayday) will not align with the (Chinese Communist Party) to let down the love and trust of Taiwanese youth.”

One of the main themes in the lead-up to the closely watched election is how the presidential candidates will handle relations with China.

Both campaign offices for DPP’s frontrunner candidate Lai Ching-te and opposition KMT’s Hou Yu-ih condemned the alleged election interference on Thursday.

“China’s election interference behaviours continue to become more obvious, and even artists and bands are not spared,” said Lai’s campaign spokesman.

Hou, whose KMT party has positioned itself as the one able to restart warmer relations with Beijing, has said Taiwan’s January 13 vote is a choice “between war and peace”.

By Agence France-Presse