By JIMMY QUINN
August 3, 2022 6:57 PM
Then-Chinese Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye delivers a speech during the Belt and Road Initiative Conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in 2018.(Chris Wattie/Reuters)
China’s ambassador to France hinted at a policy reminiscent of Uyghur repression, while not ruling out an invasion.
China’s ambassador to France warned Wednesday that Beijing would pursue a population “reeducation” in Taiwan following its “reunification” with the mainland, borrowing language from the regime’s persecution of the Uyghurs in threatening a crackdown on the Taiwanese opposition.
The diplomat, Lu Shaye, is generally viewed as a hard-liner — but one who accurately reflects a bluntly articulated version of Beijing’s intended message to the rest of the world.
He made the ominous comments during an interview on France’s BFMTV network, while discussing House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan this week. His comments could serve to increase global alarm about China’s intentions to absorb Taiwan, since such a reeducation policy would likely only be possible were China to invade Taiwan.
“Ten years ago, 20 years ago, the majority of the population of Taiwan was for reunification, but why, now, are they against it? It’s because the Democratic Progressive Party has spread a lot of anti-Chinese propaganda,” he said about Taiwan’s ruling political party.
Pressed on this by the show’s host, Lu clarified: “After the reunification, we will do reeducation.”
Although Chinese Communist Party officials speak about reunifying Taiwan with the mainland, the party has never controlled the island, to which it aggressively continues to lay claim. Lu’s claim that a majority of Taiwanese favored reunification ten years ago is also false.
Presumably, the reeducation drive referenced by Lu would only follow a brutal invasion of the island. Earlier during the interview, he said that the possibility of a Chinese attack on Taiwan “is always there,” but claimed such an attack would “not be against the population of Taiwan.”
In his BFMTV appearance, Lu said he believes the Taiwanese population is becoming more favorable to accepting Beijing’s rule and that it is becoming even more “patriotic,” presumably toward the Chinese regime. And despite affirming in the interview that China might mount an invasion, Lu said that any reeducation effort would be peaceful and “not under threat,” clarifying that it would not be a “mass” reeducation.
Yet the party’s “reeducation” drive in the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang places Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in prison camps. Detainees there are subjected to nationalistic brainwashing, among other atrocities, in the camps and throughout the region. In January 2021, the State Department determined that the reeducation drive is part of a genocide aimed at assimilating Uyghurs and eventually erasing their existence as a people.
Party apparatchiks have claimed that the reeducation campaign in Xinjiang is made necessary by a supposed extremist independence movement pursued by Uyghurs. Echoes of this language could be heard in Lu’s comments on Wednesday.
“The problem is that the Democratic Progressive Party has spread extremist propaganda,” he said. Lu accused the DPP of engaging in a step-by-step independence campaign. “If we don’t react, if we don’t respond, they will attain their objective — independence.”
Although the DPP is generally viewed as more hawkish toward China than the other main Taiwanese party, the Kuomintang, it does not favor a formal declaration of Taiwanese independence. While Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen has said that the world must recognize the status quo in which Taiwan exists independently of Beijing, she has not embraced efforts to formally declare Taiwan’s independence.
Lu is known as a controversial Chinese official for his history of sparking high-profile diplomatic incidents during his time as ambassador to France.
In the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, in early 2020, the Chinese embassy’s Twitter account claimed that a Chinese diplomat witnessed incidents in which French senior-care facilities had left their residents “to die of hunger and disease.” It also alleged, falsely, that French lawmakers had referred to WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus using a racial slur. After those incidents, Jean-Yves Le Drian, then France’s foreign minister, summoned Lu for a meeting to express his country’s outrage.
The following year, the French foreign ministry summoned Lu again, twice in two days, over the embassy’s online harassment of French scholar Antoine Bondaz and its threats related to Western sanctions against China for the Uyghur atrocities.