“Kneeling before China and begging for mercy” would not make Taiwan better, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told lawmakers yesterday after one legislator asked him to respond to Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) criticism that cross-strait relations are at their worst in 30 years.

Despite the government’s efforts to extend goodwill, China has not renounced the use of force on Taiwan and is stepping up efforts to impose its “one country, two systems” framework on the nation, he said.

To safeguard Taiwan’s existence and protect its sovereignty and democracy, the government cannot comply with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) proposals, he said, referring to Xi’s Jan. 1 speech warning that unification must be the ultimate goal of any talks between Taipei and Beijing.

“If this has been said to be bad, we still have to hold the line,” the premier said.

Perhaps the best way to improve cross-strait relations would be “kneel down and give Taiwan to China,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清) joked.

Nothing good would come of doing so, Su replied, citing the protests in Hong Kong.

“Look at what has become of Hong Kong after it was unified with China … from prosperity to turmoil,” he said.

“China promised it that nothing would change for 50 years [after Hong Kong’s handover in 1997]. Now, everything has been changed, just 20 years later,” he said.

Using a Chinese-language idiom, Su said “bowing and kneeling” to China would not make Taiwan any better.

Earlier in the day, when asked by DPP Legislator Lu Sun-ling (呂孫綾) about Chinese students and tourists vandalizing “Lennon walls” in Taiwan that support Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, Su said: “If they come here to commit a crime, we would immediately apprehend, investigate and deport them. This would serve them right.”

“We do not allow people living under Chinese autocracy to come here and not learn mutual respect from our democratic society, and to do something illegal to our democratic walls,” the premier said.

“Not only do we not welcome them, we will not allow them to be here,” he added.

In related news, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) told reporters who asked her about Ko’s comment that when it comes to cross-strait relations, it is not a question of good or bad, but an issue of national interests.

Her administration has adopted a rational stance toward cross-strait relations, as it has not provoked, nor made any rash moves, in the face of China’s constant encroachment, she said.

The government has been defending national interests and maintained normal interactions across the Taiwan Strait, while China chose to use its tourists visiting Taiwan for political purposes, she said.

Every government prioritizes its national interests when instituting policies and that is especially true for cross-strait relations, Tsai added.

Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan