China has imposed visa bans and other sanctions on Taiwanese political figures as it raises pressure on the self-governing island and the US in response to successive congressional visits.
The sanctions come days after US House Speaker; Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan this month, a trip that China said had sent a wrong signal to what it views as pro-independence forces.
China considers Taiwan its territory and not a separate country. Taiwan’s government disputes China’s claim.
China had earlier announced more military exercises in the seas and skies surrounding Taiwan in response to what it called “collusion and provocation between the US and Taiwan”.
They were announced the same day a US congressional delegation met Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, and after a similar visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-level member of the US government to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
The Chinese government objects to Taiwan having any official contact with foreign governments because it considers Taiwan its territory, and its recent actions have emphasized its threat to take the island by military force.
Ms. Pelosi’s visit was followed by nearly two weeks of threatening Chinese military exercises that included the firing of missiles over the island and incursions by navy ships and warplanes across the midline of the Taiwan Strait that has long been a buffer between the sides.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said China had overreacted with its “provocative and unnecessary response to the congressional delegation that visited Taiwan earlier this month”.
The targets of China’s latest sanctions include Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the US, Bi-Khim Hsiao, and politicians Ker Chien-ming, Koo Li-Hsiung, Tsai Chi-chang, Chen Jiau-Hua, and Wang Ting-yu, along with activist Lin Fei-fan.
They will be barred from traveling to mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao, and from having any financial or personal connections with people and entities on the mainland, according to the ruling Communist Party’s Taiwan Work Office.
The measures were designed to “resolutely punish” those considered “diehard elements” supporting Taiwan’s independence, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Premier Su Tseng-chang, leader of the Legislature You Si-kun, and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu were already on China’s sanctions list and will face more restrictions, Xinhua said.
China exercises no legal authority over Taiwan and it is unclear what effect the sanctions would have. China has refused all contact with Taiwan’s government since shortly after the 2016 election of Ms. Tsai, who was overwhelmingly reelected in 2020.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry tweeted its appreciation for the most recent congressional visit, adding that “Authoritarian China can’t dictate how democratic Taiwan makes friends, wins support, stays resilient & shines like a beacon of freedom”.
China accuses the US of encouraging the island’s independence through the sale of weapons and engagement between US politicians and the island’s government.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said among those sanctioned were Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, Secretary-General of Taiwan’s National Security Council Wellington Koo, and politicians from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
A Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson said those sanctioned would not be able to visit China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Firms and investors related to them would also not be allowed to profit in China.
“For some time, a few diehard separatist elements, out of their interests, have gone to lengths to collude with external forces in provocations advocating Taiwan independence,” Chinese state news agency Xinhua cited the spokesperson as saying.
“Their activities became all the more egregious during the visit by Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to China’s Taiwan region, further exposing their obstinate nature in seeking Taiwan independence.” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the island was a democracy that “could not be interfered with by China”, while Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council said Beijing was trying to “create antagonism and anxiety”.
DPP deputy secretary general Lin Fei-fan said it was an honour to be added to the sanctions list.
“I think that in this era, being sanctioned by an authoritarian regime should be a decoration for members of the free world, and it is very glorious,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Washington says it does not support independence, has no formal diplomatic ties with the island, and maintains that the two sides should settle their dispute peacefully — but it is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself against any attack.
Taiwan announced air force and ground-to-air missile drills for Thursday and Friday.