In his last major speech as Communist Party chief, Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday issued reminders - some say warnings - to "compatriots" in Taiwan and Hong Kong to adhere to the One-China principle.
More specifically, he warned Taiwan - which China considers a renegade province that would be recovered by force if necessary - not tocontemplate independence.
"The Chinese government will never allow anyone or any force to separate Taiwan from the motherland by any means," he said, adding that such attempts were doomed to fail.
Speaking at the opening of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) five-yearly congress, he also gave a veiled warning to Hong Kongers about their Chinese identity.
He said he hoped to see Hong Kongers, along with those in Macau, play an active role in national affairs and share with fellow mainlanders "the dignity and glory of being Chinese".
Observers in Hong Kong believe Hu's remarks served as a warning to the former British colony, where anti-mainland sentiment and nostalgia for the British colonial era have been growing in the past year.
Upset by the massive influx of mainlanders since the 1997 handover and an increasing influence by the central government in domestic affairs, some Hong Kongers have waved the British colonial flag during protests. Meanwhile, voices from a fringe movement have called for independence.
Said Professor Joseph Cheng of the City University of Hong Kong: "The waving of the colonial flag has really touched the nerve of Beijing... As the scale of discontent of the people grows larger, Hu's speech seems to show that Beijing is very concerned about the situation now."
But Hu also pledged the mainland's willingness to work with both regions.
He suggested that China and Taiwan should explore a joint mechanism to build confidence between their militaries. This could help maintain stability in cross-strait relations "so as to open a new horizon in advancing the peaceful growth of these relations".
Both sides should also explore political relations and make "reasonable arrangements" for them, he said.
Cross-strait ties have warmed since Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008. Analysts said Hu's speech signalled that Beijing was prepared for more flexibility on Taiwan.
The development of "political relations" could be as simple as the setting up of representative offices, which is already on the cards, said Prof Tung Chen-yuan of Taipei's National Chengchi University.
But it would be harder to reach a military trust mechanism and peace treaty, he said.
Kor Kian Beng
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