Barely elected president of Taiwan, Lai Ching-te (also known by his English name, William Lai) pledged on Saturday to protect the island “from threats and intimidation from China”, Beijing, which claims sovereignty of the territory , wasted no time in renewing his threats. Any step towards Taiwan’s independence will be “severely punished”, warned the head of Chinese diplomacy, Wang Yi, on Sunday January 14.

“If anyone on the island of Taiwan intends to move towards independence, they (…) will try to divide Chinese territory and will certainly be severely punished by history and the law,” the latter declared during of a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Choukri, in Cairo. For its part, Taiwan on Sunday called on China to “respect the results of the election, face reality and give up repressing Taiwan,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Beijing, which has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan back into its fold, responded to Mr. Lai’s victory by saying it would not change “the inevitable trend toward China’s reunification “. “It’s a dead end,” he added.

Increased diplomatic and military pressure

For the head of Chinese diplomacy, “whatever the results of the election, they cannot change the fundamental fact that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of it.” “Taiwan has never been a country. It was not in the past and it certainly will not be in the future,” he said.

Efforts in this direction “seriously threaten the well-being of Taiwan compatriots, seriously harm the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation, and seriously undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region,” Wang Yi further warned. At the dawn of the election, China increased its diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan. The military said it “will take all necessary measures to firmly crush attempts at ‘Taiwan independence’ in all forms.”

Big victory for Lai Ching-te

But voters on the autonomous island ignored warnings and attempts at pressure from Beijing, granting a large victory to the Democratic Progressive Party candidate on Saturday. Lai Ching-te, 64 years old and a fervent defender of the territory’s autonomy, is described by the Chinese Communist Party as a dangerous separatist, due to his comments in favor of the island’s independence.

He came first in the presidential election with 40.1% of the vote. During his victory speech, the president-elect said that “the people of Taiwan have resisted efforts by external forces to influence this election.” “We are determined to protect Taiwan from China’s continued threats and intimidation,” he declared to his supporters, promising however to “continue exchanges and cooperation with China” in economic matters. Mr Lai will take office on May 20.