Taiwan bars former top officials from Chinese political events

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's Parliament has voted to tighten a law governing links with China, effectively barring many of its former top ministers and retired generals from attending Chinese government ceremonies.

Ties between China and Taiwan are frosty, with the mainland cutting off communications with the island's government after the election of Beijing-sceptic President Tsai Ing-wen three years ago.

"We should sternly forbid any actions (from our retired military generals) such as saluting the Chinese flag, singing the Chinese anthem or any actions which could damage Taiwan's national interest and dignity," the island's premier Su Tseng-chang said in a statement on social media.

The amended law - passed on Wednesday (July 3) - prohibits former generals, the heads and their deputies of certain ministries like defence and foreign affairs from attending events hosted by or affiliated with the Chinese government.

Violators risk losing their monthly pension or a maximum fine of NT$10 million (S$436,500).

Taiwan has been a self-ruled, de facto nation in charge of its own affairs and borders for the last 70 years.

But China maintains that it is a part of its territory to be retaken - by force if necessary.

Ms Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party refuses to acknowledge that the island is part of "One China", unlike the opposition Koumintang party which favours warmer ties with Beijing.

Taiwan goes to the polls in January, and the contest is likely to be dominated by relations with China. Critics and analysts say Beijing has stepped up its efforts to spread pro-China messages in Taiwanese media and also through opaque online sources in a bid to influence the outcome.

 

Previously, former top officials who have access to classified information were banned from visiting China for three years after leaving office. The amended law extends the travel ban to six years.

Mr Alexander Huang, who teaches international relations at Tamkang University in Taiwan and was once deputy minister at Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said he felt "humiliated" by the law, adding that the restrictions would deter academics from taking up government jobs.

"To a certain degree," he said, "it shows the Taiwan current government's lack of trust of its own elite."