Financial Times

Taipei warns of risk to citizens from China's anti-secession law

By Kathrin Hille in Taipei
Published: January 10th, 2005

Taiwan has warned that its citizens and those of other countries could be at risk of criminal prosecution in China under an anti-secession law being planned by Beijing.

Stepping up its campaign against the proposed law amid a lack of international opposition to China's plans, the Taiwanese government yesterday said the core principles of the proposed legislation were a threat not only to Taiwan.

Dr. Joseph Wu, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, Taipei's cabinet-level China policy body, said that the law would define Taiwan as an "inseparable part of the People's Republic of China".

This would go far beyond Beijing's current position that the island is part of China but which leaves some room for talks on unification by not directly claiming sovereignty of the PRC over Taiwan.

Mr Wu claimed the legislation would define any speech or action seen as contradicting this claim as treason.

"That means that the roughly one million Taiwanese living in China and even citizens of other countries could face charges of treason or other criminal punishment if they were to make statements interpreted as supporting the Taiwan authorities," he said.

Beijing announced plans last month to pass an anti-secession law intended to create a legal barrier to moves towards formal independence by Taiwan but it has not yet released details.

Taipei has responded, saying the move would unilaterally change the status quo across the Strait by re-defining Taiwan and the mainland as already unified.

Concerned that other countries will include this new definition in their already strict policies on "One China", the Taiwanese government has urged the international community to demand China give up the plan. But so far the protests have been to little avail.

The US has appealed to China not to resort to steps that would further complicate the conflict. But it said it could not say more until it knew the contents of the planned legislation.