China hits back at Taiwan leader's offer of help on democracy

BEIJING (Reuters) - China hit back at Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's offer to help China transition to democracy on Monday, saying the "values and ideas" pushed forward by her party had caused chaos on the self-ruled island.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office said only mainland Chinese had the right to speak on mainland affairs, while suggesting Tsai could better spend her time reflecting on "the widespread discontent" in Taiwan and the "reasons behind why cross-strait relations had reached an impasse".

Beijing distrusts Tsai and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party because it traditionally advocates independence for Taiwan. Beijing says the island is part of China and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control.

"We are closer than any other point in history to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people," office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said in a statement sent to Reuters.

"(Taiwan authorities) should not divert attention and shirk responsibility while further inflaming cross-strait antagonism."

Speaking on Sunday, the 28th anniversary of the violent suppression of student-led pro-democracy protests in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Tsai said the biggest gap between Taiwan and China was democracy and freedom, needling Beijing at a time when relations are at a low point.

"For democracy: some are early, others are late, but we all get there in the end," Tsai said on social media.

"Borrowing on Taiwan's experience, I believe that China can shorten the pain of democratic reform."

After nearly 40 years of martial law imposed by the Nationalists on Taiwan, the island in the late 1980s began its own transition to democracy, holding direct presidential elections since 1996.

While tens of thousands gathered for a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on Sunday, the Tiananmen anniversary remains strictly taboo on the mainland, where public commemorations are banned.

(Reporting by Philip Wen and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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