China confirms watch list targeting Taiwan independence backers

A military statue and Taiwanese flag at Taiwan's Kinmen islands on Oct 20, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China confirmed it's compiling a global watch list of Taiwanese independence backers it plans to "punish," marking an escalation in Beijing's pursuit of its critics.

"The list is only targeting the extremely few stubborn Taiwan independence activists and their funders, not targeting the majority of Taiwan compatriots," Zhu Fenglian, a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a briefing on Wednesday (Nov 25). She didn't provide details on the size of the list or specific names of people identified.

The targets include "those who make arrogant remarks and conduct malicious actions to seek independence, and the leaders who organise, plan, and implement secession activities both inside and outside the Taiwan island, as well as their main funders and supporters."

Reports of the move earlier this month sparked worries among Taiwanese and Hong Kong activists. Hong Kong's Beijing-backed newspaper Ta Kung Pao had reported that China was collecting the names of prominent advocates of Taiwanese independence, and that the watch list could include activists on the democratic island and abroad as well as those who helped fund such activities.

Beijing has in recent months boosted pressure on Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen of the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, with China's air force making regular incursions into Taiwan's air defense identification zone, or Adiz.

Beijing cut off direct communications across the Taiwan Strait during her first four years in office, citing Tsai's refusal to accept the idea that both sides belong to "one China." China's Communist Party views Taiwan as part of its territory despite never controlling it.

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