Beijing’s plan to punish sponsors of blacklisted figures has potential to reshape Taiwan politics

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Beijing will update its blacklist of Taiwan pro-independence figures to further deter both political and capital support flowing to the camp, but the absence of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen from the list allows room for future cross-strait interaction, mainland observers said.

The sponsors of people blacklisted – those who fund their election campaigns – will be banned from doing business on the mainland, which observers said was likely to have a strong deterrent effect and might affect future Taiwan elections.

For the first time, Beijing spelt out the punishment for people seen as part of the “diehard” Taiwanese pro-independence force, according to a mainland statement on November 5.

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It came as tensions in the strait were escalating, especially since last month. On Tuesday, Beijing staged a joint combat readiness patrol towards Taiwan after US lawmakers arrived on the island on a US Navy plane.

Beijing sees the island as a breakaway province to be reunited by force if necessary. Three top officials – Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang, Legislative Yuan president Yu Shyi-kun and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu – were named on the blacklist for “vigorously inciting cross-strait confrontation and malicious attacks against the mainland”, according to the statement from the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing.

Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu speaks in the Czech Republic after his meeting with the Prague Mayor Zdenek Hoib. Photo: CTK/DPA
Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu speaks in the Czech Republic after his meeting with the Prague Mayor Zdenek Hoib. Photo: CTK/DPA

China will punish those on the list and their relatives by not letting them enter the mainland and its special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, and restricting them and their affiliates from cooperating with organisations and individuals on the mainland.

Observers said the three Taiwan officials were cited by Beijing because Wu had promoted ties between Taiwan and Europe during his recent trip to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Yu was pushing for a constitutional amendment to remove references to unification with the mainland while Su represented hardline independent views against the mainland.

Taiwan must ‘resist annexation’, Tsai Ing-wen says

In addition, anyone sponsoring a blacklisted person or their related enterprises will be banned from doing business on the mainland, a move likely to have a strong discouraging effect, according to Wang Jianmin, a Taiwan issues specialist at Minnan Normal University in Fujian province.

According to Beijing, Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang represents hardline independent views against the mainland. Photo: EPA-EFE/Taiwan Presidential Office
According to Beijing, Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang represents hardline independent views against the mainland. Photo: EPA-EFE/Taiwan Presidential Office

Taiwan media reported that some Taiwanese companies with business ties to the mainland and that had donated to the pro-independence camp feared being blacklisted by Beijing, and would be more cautious in making donations.

“Taiwan politicians have been long supported by these sponsors,” Wang said, adding that many of the giant enterprises sponsored the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Taiwanese Legislative Yuan president Yu Shyi-kun is known to be on Beijing’s “blacklist” of pro-independence figures. Photo: AP Photo
Taiwanese Legislative Yuan president Yu Shyi-kun is known to be on Beijing’s “blacklist” of pro-independence figures. Photo: AP Photo

“Many of these entrepreneurs have a lot of business activities in the mainland, so they have to consider if they dare to support the three [blacklisted politicians and their] relatives any more after this punishment is announced, which has a great deterrent effect.

“It is intolerable that these enterprises gained a lot of profit in the mainland while supporting Taiwan independence, and they are now panicking and have to stop.”

As Taiwanese politicians relied in part on donations from companies to fund their election campaigns, the punishment would affect the election campaigns of the DPP – more so than other parties because of its pro-independence platform – and the future transformation of Taiwan politics, Wang added. He said party donors must consider whether to back any DPP member, not just those blacklisted.

But Tsai and Taiwan’s Vice-President Lai Ching-te, who once said the island was already an independent country, are not included in the list. Mainland observers of Taiwan affairs said it was not yet appropriate to add them to the list, but they might be added later if they intensified moves to seek support for Taiwan independence.

“The list will be expanded one by one. And the aim of the list is to deter,” said one of the advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to media.

“The list is targeting those ‘diehard’ pro-independence people, and there should not be many people being targeted. The mainland side still wants to get the support and recognition of the majority of Taiwan people,” the adviser said.

In Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen’s cross-strait take plays well

Wang said the scope of the list “should be precise rather than being too large”.

“We should leave room for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and future interaction [between the mainland and Taiwan],” he said.

“To excessively expand the strike scope and put the ‘top leaders’ [of the island] in may cause even greater negative effects, and fail to achieve the expected effect of punishment, warning.”

Wang pointed out that the mainland was still striving for peaceful reunification.

Another mainland adviser said confrontation between Beijing and Taiwan would drastically escalate if Tsai’s name was on the blacklist, and might lead to the interpretation that Beijing had “laid all its cards on the table with Taiwan” ahead of a “warlike” situation.

“But the cross-strait situation is not like that now,” the adviser said.

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