China Admits Creating Wanted List of Taiwan Independence Supporters

Beijing confirmed for the first time Wednesday plans for a watch list of pro-independence "Taiwan secessionists," with the view of punishing them under Chinese law.

Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, provided neither a timeline for its release nor details about who would appear on the potentially far-reaching blacklist.

Chinese state media outlets, such as the hawkish Communist Party newspaper Global Times, have described the inclusion of Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen and her premier, Su Tseng-chang, as "very likely."

"China will not accept efforts by a few diehard Taiwan secessionists who have openly undermined our national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Zhu said, adding that Chinese authorities would take "precise measures" to severely punish the individuals in accordance with the law.

She stressed that the list now under consideration was only aimed at a "very small number" of Taiwan independence advocates and their backers. "It is absolutely not aimed at the majority of Taiwan compatriots," she said.

The admission at her regular news conference was the first public acknowledgment of a so-called "wanted list" of Taiwan independence supporters, which was first reported by Hong Kong's pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Po earlier this month.

Pro-independence individuals and those who finance related activities could be arrested and charged under China's 2005 Anti-Secession Law, 2015 National Security Law and 1997 Criminal Law, the report suggested.

Zhu said the watch list would target "brazen plotters," both within Taiwan and outside.

In an editorial this month, Global Times admitted that Beijing was unable to enforce its laws on the democratic island "at present." But it revealed how those on the list might be prosecuted, despite the low probability of any Taiwan government officials setting foot anywhere in mainland China.

"The personal freedom of these blacklisted separatists, as well as their family members, will be largely restrained," the state-owned tabloid said. "Just like suspects wanted by the police, they will be scared and won't dare to travel to the mainland, Hong Kong or Macao, as well as other countries, especially countries which signed an extradition treaty with and have close relations with the People's Republic of China."

"The risk will always remain," even if those wanting Taiwan independence travel to the United States or other Western nations, the newspaper said, warning: "After reunification, if they remain on the island, they will be prosecuted, judged and punished."

Those with business interests in the mainland would also find their investments impacted, the government publication said.

Following initial reports of the supposed blacklist, Taipei's Mainland Affairs Council accused Beijing of "sowing division" and damaging peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Last month, a retired intelligence officer with Taiwan's National Security Bureau predicted the existence of a wanted list for Taiwan independence seekers, calling it a sign that a Chinese invasion of the island was imminent.

In an interview with Hong Kong's China Review News Agency, ex-Taiwan army colonel Lee Tien-tuo said Beijing would also look to end the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, which it signed with Tsai's predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, in 2010.

Taiwan government cabinet
File photo: Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (C) and her cabinet members as of August 2018. Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images