The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will never renounce the use of force on Taiwan, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said at the opening on Oct. 16 of an important Party meeting.
Held every five years, the CCP's 20th Party congress kicked off in Beijing amid public frustration fueled by escalated COVID-19 restrictions at home and international criticism of the CCP aggression toward Taiwan.
During the weeklong meeting, the next round of the Party's top leadership will be announced, while Xi, 69, is likely to secure a record third five-year term in office, cementing his place as the Party's most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the gathering, Xi touted the CCP's achievements during what he called an "extremely uncommon and abnormal" five years.
Reaffirming the Party's hard stance, Xi said China would “never promise to renounce the use of force” on Taiwan, angering the self-ruled island, which vowed to defend its sovereignty and democracy.
Xi's roughly two-hour speech was considerably shorter than his remarks in 2017, which lasted more than three hours.
During the speech, the words "security" and "safety" appeared more frequently than five years ago. According to a transcript published by the official news agency Xinhua, Xi mentioned the two words 73 times on Oct. 16, up from 55 times in the 2017 meeting. While he mentioned food security and supply chain security, the emphasis was given to "national security."
The pivotal political event is occurring amid growing international criticism of the CCP's human rights violations in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, as well as its harassment of Taiwan. In the lead-up to the conference, lawmakers from across the world called for democratic countries to hold the CCP accountable for its human rights abuses.
TaiwanThe loudest applause came during the meeting when Xi emphasized the CCP's opposition to Taiwan's independence.
Speaking in Beijing, Xi touted the CCP's provocations as a demonstration of its "determination and ability" to fight against "separatist forces."
"The complete reunification of our country must be realized, and it can without a doubt be realized," he said.
In response, Taiwan stated that it's a sovereign country and that it won't back down from defending its democracy and freedom.
Zero-COVID PolicyDuring his address at the opening ceremony, Xi said the CCP “prioritized the people and their lives above all else and tenaciously pursued [a] dynamic zero-Covid policy in launching all-out people’s war against the virus.”
Xi’s remarks appear to dash the hopes of Chinese people who are looking for signs of the loosening of the policy. The draconian approach aims to eliminate every infection among communities through strict lockdowns, repeated testing, and mass surveillance.
Weeks ahead of the conference, CCP officials across China ratcheted up travel restrictions and lockdowns, although only a handful of cases were reported. At least 36 Chinese cities have been placed under some level of restrictions or lockdown, affecting about 196.9 million people, according to an Oct. 10 estimate by Japanese bank Nomura.
Chinese activists suggested that the COVID-19 restrictions are aimed at strengthening the CCP’s control rather than containing outbreaks.
“The epidemic is less severe than influenza,” Zhao Changqing, a human rights activist, told The Epoch Times on Oct. 16.
There are more tragedies as a result of strict curb measures than from the virus itself, he says. In Tibet, where some cities endured a 50-day lockdown last month, the inhuman lockdown led to at least five people killing themselves, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, a human rights advocacy group.
Zhao said the rare protest in Beijing demonstrates the rising desire among the public for the removal of measures of social control.
“Through fascist-style pressure and control, the CCP is preventing the fight against its tyranny from spreading,” Zhao said.