The UK government has reiterated that it does not consider Taiwan to be a state, it said in an answer to an online petition on Thursday.

The petition, initiated by Lee Chapman on January 18, 2016, asked for the UK government to “recognise Taiwan as a country”, saying that the current situation is “ridiculous.”

Petition on Taiwan with response from UK
The petition, started by Lee Chapman, calling for the government to “recognise Taiwan as a country.” Photo: Screenshot via

“Taiwan maintains the Taipei Representative Office in the U.K. in London with a branch office in Edinburgh while the United Kingdom maintains the British Office Taipei in Taipei,” he said.

The government had promised to respond to petitions with more than 10,000 signatures. The petition reached the number early on January 21, 2016, according to The Taipei Times.

Representing the government, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said that they “do not recognise Taiwan as a state.” It cited “the 1972 Joint Communique between the United Kingdom and China set out that: ‘The UK acknowledges the Chinese position that Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China and recognises the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China.’”

It said that the relationship between the UK and Taiwan is “strong but unofficial.” According to the FCO, the UK maintains a robust trade relationship with Taiwan, reaching £5.8 billion (HK$66 billion) in two way trade in 2014.

taiwan election
Photo: Elson Tong/HKFP.

The FCO said that “the Taiwan issue should be resolved through dialogue, in line with the views of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.” However, it is expected that the incoming Taiwanese president-elect Tsai Ing-wen will not be as friendly to China as the current President Ma Ying-jeou.

Speaking to the Central News Agency, the Republic of China’s representative to the UK, Liu Chih-Kung, said that this had always been the position of UK. Taiwan’s sovereignty will not be reduced as a result of this response, he said.

Anyone can start a petition at the government website as long as they are a citizen or a resident of the UK.

If the petition reaches over 100,000 signatures, the UK government will discuss the issue in parliament. As of the time of writing, the petition has garnered almost 21,000 signatures.

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.