This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
China on Wednesday hit out at U.S. President Joe Biden’s inclusion of democratic Taiwan in his forthcoming online democracy summit, with no invitation extended to Beijing, while fining Taiwanese companies that have donated to the island’s “secessionist” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
“China firmly opposes the U.S.’s invitation to the Taiwan authorities to participate in the so-called Democracy Summit,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular media briefing in Beijing.
“We solemnly urge the U.S. to … stop providing a platform to “Taiwan independence” forces,” Zhao said, adding: “Those who play with fire get burned.”
Zhao’s comments came after China launched a nationwide probe into the activities of companies under Taiwan’s Far Eastern Group, which is a donor to Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the party of president Tsai Ing-wen.
Some of the companies had been fined for environmental and other violations, amid a crackdown on “diehard secessionists.”
“We will never allow [companies] that support Taiwan secession … or those that bite the hand that feeds them, to make money [here],” China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Zhu Fenglian told reporters.
Taiwan secessionists, their affiliated enterprises and their investors must be punished, he said.
Taiwan has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), nor formed part of the People’s Republic of China, and Tsai has repeatedly rejected Beijing’s insistence on “unification” under CCP rule, saying Taiwan’s 23 million people have no wish to give up their democratic way of life or self-rule as the 1911 Republic of China government.
Publicly available figures show that Far Eastern made a number of political donations during the 2000 presidential and legislative election campaigns, including one to pro-China opposition candidate Han Kuo-yu, and not to Tsai.
However, out of 47 donations to Legislative Yuan election candidates, 32 were from the DPP, which strongly supports Taiwan’s continued sovereignty, and which says the island is already independent, rejecting China’s territorial claims.
DPP lawmaker Chen Ting-fei said the idea that Far Eastern is somehow “pro-independence” is laughable.
“If you were to accuse them of that here in Taiwan, people would think you were joking,” Chen told RFA.
Actions likely counterproductive
Fellow DDP lawmaker Cheng Yun-peng, who has received a million Taiwan dollars in donations from Far Eastern, said: “Any business from around the world that does business in China suffers in the same way.”
And opposition KMT lawmaker Lai Shih-pao, who has also received donations from Far Eastern, said such donations were made entirely legally and transparently.
“Everyone at Far Eastern knows that they are betting both ways [on the DPP and the KMT],” Lai told RFA.
He said China’s actions would likely be counterproductive, however.
“They want to win the support of the people of Taiwan, but it is getting further and further from their grasp,” he said. “To some extent, it’s actually helping the DPP win elections.”
Former Taiwan defense minister Tsai Ming-hsien said the overall effect of such attacks would be to discourage Taiwanese investment in China.
“The more China targets Taiwanese businesses, the less they will be willing to invest in China, because they don’t want China to hold any political influence,” Tsai said.
“Such political targeting and intervention is unfair to Taiwan businesses and will have a negative impact on China.”
But KMT lawmaker Wu Si-huai said DPP lawmaker Su Chiao-hui, daughter of Taiwan premier Su Chen-chang, would likely see a fall in donations from bigger companies with interests in China at the next election, giving rise to a chilling effect.
“This is one step in the CCP’s stealth offensive,” Wu told RFA. “Russian leader Vladimir Putin said China doesn’t need to invade Taiwan, because it has many other ways to [defeat it].”
“This right now is the first step,” he said.