China

China threatens death penalty for Taiwan independence ‘diehards’


China has threatened to impose the death penalty in extreme cases for “diehard” Taiwan independence separatists, a ratcheting up of pressure even though Chinese courts have no jurisdiction on the democratically governed island.

China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has made no secret of its dislike of President Lai Ching-te, who took office last month, saying he is a “separatist”, and staged war games shortly after his inauguration.

Taiwan has complained of a pattern of ramped up Chinese pressure since Lai won the election in January, including ongoing military actions, trade sanctions and coast guard patrols around Taiwan-controlled islands next to China.

The new guidelines say China’s courts, prosecutors, public and state security bodies should “severely punish Taiwan independence diehards for splitting the country and inciting secession crimes in accordance with the law, and resolutely defend national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity“, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

The notice Beijing released on Friday specified the death penalty for “ringleaders” of independence efforts who “cause particularly serious harm to the state and the people”, Xinhua said.

Other leading advocates could face jail terms ranging from 10 years to life.

The new guidelines – to take effect from Friday – were being issued in accordance with laws already on the books, including the 2005 anti-secession law, Xinhua said. That law gives China the legal basis for military action against Taiwan if it secedes or seems about to.

Sun Ping, an official from China’s ministry of public security, told reporters in Beijing the maximum penalty for the “crime of secession” was the death penalty.

“The sharp sword of legal action will always hang high,” she said.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council denounced Beijing’s move, urging its people not to be threatened by China.

“The Beijing authorities have absolutely no jurisdiction over Taiwan, and the Chinese communists’ so-called laws and norms have no binding force on our people,” it said in a statement on Friday. “The government appeals to our country’s people to feel at ease and not to be threatened or intimidated by the Chinese Communist party.”

President Lai Ching-te visits soldiers and air force personnel in Hualien, Taiwan, last month. Photograph: Ann Wang/Reuters

The guidelines detail what is considered a crime worthy of punishment, including promoting Taiwan’s entry to international organisations where statehood is a condition, having “external official exchanges” and “suppressing” parties, groups and people that promote “reunification”.

The guidelines add a further clause to what could be considered a crime – “other acts that seek to separate Taiwan from China” – meaning the rules can be broadly interpreted.

Lai has repeatedly offered to hold talks with China but has been rebuffed. He says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.

China has taken legal measures against Taiwanese officials before, including imposing sanctions on Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s former de facto ambassador to the US and now the island’s vice-president.

Such punishments have little practical effect as Chinese courts do not have jurisdiction in Taiwan, whose government rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims. Senior Taiwanese officials, including its president, also do not visit China.

With Agence France-Presse



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