China Fleshes Out Laws Targeting Backers of Taiwan Independence

(Bloomberg) -- China fleshed out laws aimed at punishing supporters of independence for Taiwan, a move intended to pile pressure on the island’s new president.

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Activities that can lead to guilty verdicts include promoting Taiwan’s membership in international organizations and conducting official exchanges and military contacts with other nations, according to a legal opinion issued by China’s top court, prosecutor and several ministries on Friday.

Trials can be held without defendants present, the opinion added. It also sets out punishments for specific offenses that range from prison time to the death penalty.

The opinion didn’t name Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, new President Lai Ching-te or his predecessor, Tsai Ing-wen. But they’ve worked to raise the global profile of the democratically run island that China pledged to under its control.

They have also tried to enhance the ability of Taiwan’s military to deter a Chinese invasion, mostly with the help of the US, and hosted visits from a slew of US lawmakers.

Tsai’s meetings with two top US lawmakers prompted the People’s Liberation Army to hold major military drills around Taiwan. China held similar exercises after Lai was inaugurated last month, part of a range of pressure tactics it has applied since his election.

The guidelines do not target the majority of people in Taiwan but “only a small group of die-hard separatists,” Chen Binhua, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing, said in a briefing on Friday.

Beijing used similar phrasing when it hit Taiwan officials with sanctions in recent years. One of them, Hsiao Bi-khim, is now the vice president.

In May, China said it would slap five Taiwanese political commentators with mostly symbolic sanctions, saying their remarks “incited hostility and confrontation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.”

The latest legal opinion signals that Beijing may continue to target media figures on the island who don’t follow its line. One clause says that people who “wantonly distort or tamper with the fact that Taiwan is part of China in the fields of education, culture, history and news media” are subject to punishment.

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