Beijing clamps down on Taiwanese companies that support Taipei independence

Taiwanese companies that finance separatist groups and personalities will be punished "according to law," the Chinese government says, targeting those present also in China. Taiwanese multinational Far Eastern Group seems to be the first victim. Tensions high: US warships continue to pass through the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Communist China's battle against Taiwan's "die-hard secessionists" seems to be spreading to the island's companies operating in Chinese territory. Last night, China's Taiwan Affairs Office said that companies linked to Taipei's independence supporters, including their financiers, will be "punished according to law."

Spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian's statement was an indirect response to a specific question in the press: whether recent fines imposed on a large Taiwanese conglomerate for a series of violations in China were related to the blacklisting of Taiwanese figures accused of separatism.

The Chinese government released the list in early November: those on it are barred from entering China, including through Hong Kong and Macau. Among the Taipei figures sanctioned are Premier Su Tseng-chang, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and the chairman of the Legislative Yuan (the island's parliament) You Si-kun.

China considers Taiwan a "rebel province", and has never ruled out reconquering it with the use of force. The island has been de facto independent from Beijing since 1949; at that time Chiang Kai-shek's nationalists found refuge there after losing the civil war on the mainland to the Communists, making it the heir to the Republic of China founded in 1912.

According to a recent poll commissioned by the Taiwanese Council for Affairs with China, 84.9% of respondents said they want the "status quo" to be maintained; 1.6% look toward reunification with Beijing and 6.8% favor independence. It should be noted that for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the island is already an independent state.

Zhu pointed out that Beijing "welcomes and supports" the investments of Taiwanese companies and "will continue to protect their rights". The Chinese spokeswoman added, however, that China "will not allow those who promote [Taipei's] independence or destroy cross-Strait relations to make money in the motherland in any way.

Beijing has targeted the Taiwanese multinational Far Eastern Group. Two of its subsidiaries with operations in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Hubei and Sichuan must pay fines totaling 88.6 million yuan (12.3 million euros). With operations in the textile and construction sectors, Far Eastern New Century and Asia Cement violated a number of local regulations on environment, taxes, personnel health, land use, plant safety and fire safety, according to Chinese authorities.

As Taiwanese media report, since 2012 Far Eastern Group has made donations to Taiwanese majority and opposition politicians in presidential and legislative elections, including those from the independence front. Its contribution amounted to 133.4 million Taiwanese dollars (4.3 million euros), making it the top private donor in the time period under review. Also among the beneficiaries was Premier Su for his 2018 campaign for mayor of New Taipei City.

In addition to economic and political pressures, China has long intensified air and naval military activities near the island. Yesterday, a U.S. warship made its 10th passage since the beginning of the year through the Taiwan Strait; for Beijing it will be an additional source of irritation.

On October 21, Joe Biden affirmed that in case of an attack by the Chinese, the United States will defend Taipei: an apparent distance from the traditional "strategic ambiguity" observed by Washington on the possible response to a Chinese aggression against Taiwan.