The comment appeared in an official parliamentary document just as Foreign Secretary James Cleverly traveled to China
The British Parliament's Foreign Policy Committee has described Taiwan as "already an independent country, under the name Republic of China (ROC)." The snub to Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the self-administered island, came as UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly arrived in China for a visit intended to mend relations.
The comment on Taiwan was included in a report on the UK's Indo-Pacific strategy published on Wednesday. The committee's chairperson, Alicia Kearns, told Politico that it was the first time in recent history that British MPs had openly supported Taiwan's claims of statehood in a formal document.
"We acknowledge China's position, but we... do not accept it," Kearns said. She added that Foreign Secretary Cleverly should "steadfastly and vocally stand by Taiwan."
Cleverly arrived in China on Wednesday for a long-expected visit intended to mend a diplomatic rift between the two nations. He is the highest-ranking British official to travel to Beijing in five years, and is scheduled to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice President Han Zheng.
"We are clear-eyed about the areas where we have fundamental disagreements with China and we raise those issues when we meet," Cleverly told journalists ahead of the trip. "But I think it's important to also recognize that we have to have a pragmatic, sensible working relationship with China because of the issues that affect us all around the globe."
Taiwan served as the last refuge for Chinese nationalist forces in the 1940s during the civil war. Most of the world's nations have switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Neither side recognizes the other's statehood.
The Chinese government says it is seeking reconciliation and the peaceful reintegration of Taiwan. However, it has warned that it will use force, should the Taiwanese administration declare independence.
Asked by Politico to comment, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it urged British MPs "to adhere to the 'One China' principle... and stop sending the wrong signals to pro-independence Taiwanese secessionist forces."
The parliamentary report stated that "the UK's 'One China' policy is not the same as China's 'One China' principle," and merely acknowledges Beijing's position. UK officials should refrain from "misspeaking or acting over-cautiously" regarding Taiwan, the lawmakers said.