This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
China announced sanctions against seven Taiwanese officials including Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States Hsiao Bi-khim, labeling them “diehard separatists.”
Other Taiwanese political figures on the list are Koo Li-hsiung, Tsai Chi-chang, Ker Chien-ming, Lin Fei-fan, Chen Jiau-hua and Wang Ting-yu, said a spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee. All but one are from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
The sanctioned politicians and their family members are banned from entering China’s mainland, Hong Kong and Macao. Their affiliated institutions and businesses are also prohibited from engaging in activities on the mainland.
The named politicians “will be held to lifelong accountability according to law,” with further punitive measures to be decided, according to the announcement.
“Their affiliated institutions are restricted from forging cooperation with relevant organizations and individuals on the mainland,” the Global Times newspaper quoted the Taiwan Work Office as saying.
“Enterprises related to them, as well as their sponsors, are prohibited from engaging in profit-making activities on the mainland,” it quoted a spokesperson as saying.
Hsiao Bi-khim, who has been Taiwan’s representative to the U.S. since July 2020, was accused of helping push U.S. arms sales to the island and recently in advancing the visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Their activities became all the more egregious during the visit by Pelosi to China’s Taiwan region, further exposing their obstinate nature in seeking Taiwan independence,” it quoted the office as saying.
Hsiao told U.S. media in various interviews last week that Taiwan would treat China like a school bully that needs to be stood up to.
She told journalists on Aug. 12 that China shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with Taiwan’s long-standing hospitality to its international friends.
“I believe that the security and stability of the Taiwan Strait is in the common interest of all parties in the region, and we once again call on China to exercise restraint and not use force to deal with what they consider to be dissenting political ideas,” she said.
She added that military posturing in the Taiwan Strait would only serve to alienate the island’s people, a claim that was borne out in an opinion poll release on Aug. 16 by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation.
The poll of more than 1,000 Taiwanese adults found that 52.9 percent didn’t regret Pelosi’s visit, while 78 percent of respondents said they weren’t frightened by Beijing’s saber-rattling.
Besides the seven, two other well-known Taiwanese political figures – President of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy Huang Yu-lin and secretary general of the International Cooperation and Development Fund Timothy Hsiang – are also banned from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau.
Last November for the first time, China imposed an entry ban on Taiwan’s Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang, Legislative Speaker You Si-kun and Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu, saying they were part of “an extremely small minority of diehard Taiwanese separatists who caused extreme harm … to the fundamental interests of the Chinese race.”
As the sanction list expanded to ten names, the Taiwan Office’s spokesperson was quoted by Xinhua as warning that it could grow further and “anyone who deliberately challenges the law will face severe punishment.”
It’s unclear how the punitive measures will affect the Taiwanese politicians as they are not known to have traveled nor done business on China’s mainland.
On Aug.5, Beijing announced sanctions against Nancy Pelosi and her immediate family in response to her visit to Taiwan which China condemned as an “egregious provocation.”
When asked about the decision a few days later, Pelosi reportedly laughed it off saying: “Who cares?”
“That is incidental to me, of no relevance whatsoever,” she said, according to Reuters.
During Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, China imposed a no-entry ban on executives of four Taiwanese companies which had made donations to two foundations – the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and the International Cooperation and Development Fund – that Beijing deemed as “aggressively engaging in pro-independence separatist activities.”
The four companies are solar producer Speedtech Energy Co., Hyweb Technology Co., medical equipment producer Skyla, and cold chain vehicle fleet management company SkyEyes. They’re also not allowed to do business with any mainland companies.
Penghu claims challenged
In another development, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense has rejected claims by the Chinese military that its aircraft had flown over Penghu, one of Taiwan’s most important outlying islands, during a flight operation on Monday.
The Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Monday published a video on WeChat purportedly showing Penghu Islands as seen from a military airplane at a relatively close proximity.
Three types of aircraft were seen in the video: a Shaanxi Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft, a SU-30 and a J-16 fighter.
Penghu Islands are situated on the eastern side of the Taiwan Strait, only 50 kilometers from Taiwan’s main island.
The PLA sent 30 aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday, half of them crossed the median line dividing the Strait, according to the Taiwanese defense ministry.
Taiwan’s ministry said only four Chinese J-16 crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait but they did not come close to Penghu Islands. No Shaanxi aircraft was deployed.
The video released by the PLA Eastern Theater Command was clearly “Chinese cognitive warfare,” said Maj. Gen. Tung Pei-lun, Taiwan Air Force’s Vice Chief of Staff for Operations.
“China used the exaggerated tricks of cognitive warfare to show how close it was to Penghu – which is not true,” Tung told reporters at a briefing in Taipei.
Some Taiwanese military experts, such as Shen Ming-Shih, acting deputy chief executive officer at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said the PLA probably used a powerful camera lens to film Penghu from a long distance.
“Penghu Islands are the most important islands in the Taiwan Strait,” said Shen.
“If China managed to occupy Penghu, the PLA could launch an effective military operation against Taiwan.”
But the Taiwanese military maintains a large air defense missile battery and a radar system on Penghu, the analyst said, adding that the Taiwanese air force and navy should be able to deter an invading Chinese force.
Information warfare and cyberattacks
Meanwhile, a member of Taiwan’s administration and cabinet, the Executive Yuan, warned that China’s information warfare and cyberattacks as part of cognitive operations to attack public morale and sow confusion in Taiwan are now on a war footing.
Tang Feng said most of the information warfare being deployed by China via the media and social media is psychological warfare, and that “the battlefield is in everyone’s hearts and minds.”
He called on the government and state-run agencies like the railways to step up security measures and improve outsourcing requirements to ensure hacks of the island’s digital signage systems with anti-Pelosi messages couldn’t occur again.
Digital signs at convenience stores and railway stations across Taiwan displayed hacked messages describing Pelosi as “an old witch” and claiming “There is only one China in this world,” around the time of Pelosi’s visit.
In April 2019, the Executive Yuan passed a list of restrictions intended to restrict the use of Chinese-made products by state agencies and companies, including those made by Huawei and Hikvision.
But Economic Democracy Union researcher Hsu Kuan-tze said the move didn’t go far enough.
“There should be a total import ban on all Chinese-made digital cameras and photographic equipment, as well as advertising billboards,” Hsu said.
“If there is an emergency in the Taiwan Strait crisis, attempts to hurt public morale could have an impact,” she warned.
Infosec researcher Hung Chia-ling agreed.
“Maybe the next Taiwan Railways [hack] won’t just be abusive messages about Pelosi, but misleading information during a national crisis, for example a bomb threat against Taipei main railway station,” Hung said.
“This could cause considerable harm, especially during a war or terrorist attack,” she said. “The government must protect the sanctity of public information.”