Beijing prepares blacklist to target ‘diehard Taiwan separatists’

William Zheng
·3-min read

Beijing is drafting a blacklist of “diehard Taiwan separatists” as a warning to Taipei not to get too close to Washington, according to two mainland official sources specialising in Taiwan affairs.

The sources said that although the idea of the list was first floated two years ago, the decision to go ahead with it came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that Taiwan “has not been a part of China”.

A Beijing-based source working for a government think tank specialising in Taiwan affairs said the names of the people targeted were not expected to be known publicly until next year.

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“The announcement of the list is likely to come after the inauguration of the next president of the United States,” the source said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

He said the targets would be anybody who openly advocated Taiwan independence, pushed aggressively for Taiwan independence or funded separatists generously.

The list was first reported by pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao.

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A mainland official based in Hong Kong said the idea of a blacklist was proposed to the leadership in Beijing as early as May 2018.

But Beijing only made the decision to go ahead with it in the last few days because “there are many dangerous signs recently”.

Apart from Pompeo’s speech, the Taiwanese navy command acknowledged news reports last week that a contingent of US Marine Raiders were on a month-long mission in Taiwan to train local personnel. However, the US and Taiwan quickly distanced themselves from reports of the cooperation, saying they were not accurate.

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Beijing would keep the list “very short, targeting at just a handful separatist leaders so as not to affect routine business and personal exchanges across the Taiwan Strait”, the think tank source said.

Both sources confirmed that the sanctions list would be based on the mainland’s Anti-Secession Law, Criminal Law and National Security Law, all of which classify separatist activities as a crime with a possible punishment of life in prison.

The Beijing source said the final list was being settled but he understood that among those likely to appear on it were “Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen, key members in her administration pushing for Taiwan-US relationships and key people in Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party”.

“There will be no statute of limitations on the [offences],” he said.

On Monday, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council expressed strong disapproval of the proposed list, saying it was “meant to intimidate people who hold different opinions” and could undermine cross-strait peace and stability.

“The Taiwanese will not compromise in the face of these threats and will continue to safeguard our values of freedom and democracy ... If the report is true, the list will only backfire,” the council said.

Wu Junfei, deputy director of Hong Kong’s Tianda Institute think tank, said the list was another stern warning to the Taiwanese leadership not to “play with fire” and “try their luck” while the United States transitioned to the next administration.

“There have been moves in the US and Taiwan recently – including Pompeo’s speech – from people trying to advance ties. But by announcing the list, Beijing is making its stand clearer: it will relentlessly pursue radical pro-independence people and deal with them sternly,” Wu said.

Lim John Chuan-tiong, a former researcher at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, said the list could complicate links with Taiwan.

“Such penalties would certainly scare the average person,” Lim said.

“Does it mean all those Taiwanese who have any dealings with the independence-leaning ruling party cannot go to the mainland from now on?”

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