'Don't Underestimate Us': Taiwan Official Warns China Over Wanted List of Independence Supporters

The mayor of Taiwan's third-largest city has warned Beijing not to underestimate the island's will to defend itself, after a Chinese official admitted Wednesday that the regime was preparing a watch list of pro-independence supporters.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai called for more "mutual respect," saying the actions of the Chinese leadership would only cause further "dislike" for Beijing among the island's 23 million inhabitants.

"China must understand Taiwan's determination for national security and self-defense," Chen said. "So don't underestimate us."

Chen's remarks came following a Kaohsiung City Council meeting Thursday, the day after China's Taiwan Affairs Office admitted for the first time the existence of a proposed blacklist of "diehard Taiwan secessionists."

Office spokesperson Zhu Fenglian said the so-called "wanted list" would allow Chinese authorities to prosecute supporters of Taiwan independence—and those who finance them—both in and outside the self-ruled island, which Beijing claims as part of its territory.

In an attempt to reassure the wider Taiwanese public, Zhu said the list would only affect a "very small number" of independence advocates, who she described as "brazen plotters."

Mayor Chen, who is a member of President Tsai Ing-wen's ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said China needed to grasp democratic Taiwan's thirst for "national identity" and "peace," state-funded CNA reported.

The Taiwan Affairs Office, which deals with all cross-strait matters, did not offer a timeline for the watch list's release or hint at who might be on it. However, Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times said President Tsai and Su Tseng-chang, her outspoken chief minister, were "very likely" to be included.

The office's counterpart, Taipei's Mainland Affairs Council, described official remarks about the blacklist as attempts to "intimidate Taiwan" and "disrupt democracy."

"China's malign behavior not only fails to strike the slightest bit of fear in Taiwan's citizens, it adds to the hatred of the authoritarian Communist Party's ignorant bullying," the council was quoted as saying in a CNA report Wednesday.

Relations between Taipei and Beijing are at their worst since the 1990s, following the election of President Tsai in 2016 and the island's categoric rejection of pro-China opposition party Kuomintang in the January elections this year.

China has stressed that cross-strait cooperation can only continue on the foundation of the 1992 Consensus and the "one China" principle, which also outlines the "one country, two systems" approach rejected by the current Taiwanese government.

The Chinese Communist Party governs Hong Kong and Macau under the system, which grants each region semi-autonomy. Analysts, however, say Taiwan has no faith that such a policy could ever work on the island, especially after Beijing's introduction of the Hong Kong national security law this summer.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai
File photo: Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai. STR/AFP via Getty Images