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China confirms watch list targeting Taiwan independence backers

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) – China confirmed it’s compiling a global watch list of Taiwanese independence backers it plans to “punish,” marking an escalation in Beijing’s pursuit of its critics.

“The list is only targeting the extremely few stubborn Taiwan independence activists and their funders, not targeting the majority of Taiwan compatriots,” Zhu Fenglian, a spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a briefing on Wednesday (Nov 25). She didn’t provide details on the size of the list or specific names of people identified.

The targets include “those who make arrogant remarks and conduct malicious actions to seek independence, and the leaders who organise, plan, and implement secession activities both inside and outside the Taiwan island, as well as their main funders and supporters.”

Reports of the move earlier this month sparked worries among Taiwanese and Hong Kong activists. Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed newspaper Ta Kung Pao had reported that China was collecting the names of prominent advocates of Taiwanese independence, and that the watch list could include activists on the democratic island and abroad as well as those who helped fund such activities.

Beijing has in recent months boosted pressure on Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen of the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, with China’s air force making regular incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, or Adiz.

Beijing cut off direct communications across the Taiwan Strait during her first four years in office, citing Tsai’s refusal to accept the idea that both sides belong to “one China.” China’s Communist Party views Taiwan as part of its territory despite never controlling it.

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Taiwan says unnamed U.S. official is visiting, cannot give details

FILE PHOTO: Flags of Taiwan and U.S. are placed for a meeting In Taipei, Taiwan March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

TAIPEI (Reuters) – A U.S. official has arrived in Taiwan, the island’s foreign ministry said on Sunday, adding that it could not provide details as the trip has not been made public, though it did deny a media report that the CIA chief was in town.

China, which claims democratically-run Taiwan as its own territory, reacted with fury when the U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar came to Taipei in August, followed by U.S. Undersecretary of State Keith Krach in September, sending fighter jets near the island each time.

The Trump administration has ramped up support for Taiwan, including with new arms sales, alarming China.

In a brief statement, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said there were frequent interactions with the United States and that “we welcome the visit of the U.S. official”.

“But as this itinerary has not been made public, based on mutual trust between Taiwan and the United States, the Foreign Ministry has no further explanation or comment,” it added.

However, it said in a separate statement that Taiwan media reports a delegation lead by CIA chief Gina Haspel had arrived in Taiwan were untrue, and that Haspel had no plans to come.

The de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei declined to comment.

The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, but is the democratic island’s most important international backer and supplier of arms.

Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said last week the cabinet-level head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, will visit Taiwan. U.S. media said that trip is likely next month.

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'Don't worry' – pro-Trump Taiwan seeks to reassure over Biden

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s top China policy maker on Monday sought to reassure nervous lawmakers that Democrat Joe Biden will continue U.S. support for the Chinese-claimed island, which has benefited from strong backing by the outgoing administration of Donald Trump.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

Tensions over democratic Taiwan have escalated dramatically since Republican Trump took office four years ago. China was infuriated first by Trump’s unprecedented call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen shortly after he won election, followed by increased U.S. arms sales and two visits to Taipei by top U.S. officials in recent months.

While that made Trump a popular figure with the public in Taiwan, China responded by increasing military drills near Taiwan, including flying fighter jets over the sensitive mid line of the Taiwan Strait, escalating fears of conflict.

In Taiwan’s parliament on Monday, several legislators expressed concerns about a Taiwan policy shift under a Biden administration, with some describing Biden as “China-friendly”, and others pointing to Biden’s opposition to a bill to strengthen Taiwan’s security in 1999.

Huang Shih-chieh, from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said their main concern was whether U.S. support for Taiwan would change.

“Our biggest worry is that with a Biden presidency he may adjust his policy,” Huang said.

But Chen Ming-tong, who heads Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, repeatedly reassured lawmakers a fundamental change in U.S. support for Taiwan was unlikely.

“There’s no need to worry about a change of ownership in the White House,” he said. “Although there might be some changes in Biden’s tactics towards China, there will be no change in its China strategy.”

Chen noted it was former President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president, who pushed the “pivot” back to Asia to challenge a rising China, and that Biden was unlikely to challenge the current geopolitical structure of the U.S.-China standoff.

The United States and Taiwan share the same values, Chen said.

“Looking at (Biden’s) comments and support for Taiwan in the past, we can trust him to continue to reinforce the Taiwan-U.S. relationship.”

Chen said while Biden was “generally viewed as China-friendly” he had also made a lot of criticism about China.

“Some people only see one side of the story and overlook another.”

Taiwan officials have long worried that Trump was just using the island as a pawn to put pressure on China.

So Biden being in the White House may not be a bad thing for Taiwan, said Lai Shyh-bao, a lawmaker for the main opposition party, the Kuomintang, which traditionally favours close ties with China.

“With a Biden administration I think tensions in the Taiwan Strait will be lowered, because he will not think of Taiwan as a big chess piece, like Trump always did,” he said.

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Taiwan says not invited to WHO meeting after China's 'obstruction'

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan is yet to receive an invite to a key World Health Organization (WHO) meeting this week expected to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic due to “obstruction” from China, the island’s foreign ministry said, expressing its displeasure.

People walk past a Taiwanese flag amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Taipei, Taiwan, August 10, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang/Files

The U.S. mission in Geneva last week urged WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to invite Chinese-claimed but democratically ruled Taiwan to the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly (WHA).

Late on Sunday, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said the island had yet to get an invite to the virtual meeting of 194 member states.

“The Foreign Ministry expresses strong regret and dissatisfaction at China’s obstruction of Taiwan participating in the WHO and the WHO’s continuing to neglect the health and human rights of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people,” it added.

The WHO’s refusal to invite Taiwan based on political considerations makes a mockery of the body’s “health for all” claim, the ministry said.

Taiwan is locked out of most global organisations such as the WHO due to the objections of China, which considers the island one of its provinces with no right to the trappings of a sovereign state.

The WHO says it is up to member states whether to invite Taiwan, which has been praised internationally for quickly containing the coronavirus, to observe the WHA meeting.

Backed by the United States, Taiwan has stepped up lobbying this year to take part, angering China.

China’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva on Friday denounced the “distorted” U.S. remarks on Taiwan, saying the island can only take part if it admits to being part of China, something Taipei’s government has refused to do.

The WHO says it cooperates with Taiwan on various health matters including on aspects of the pandemic and that the island has been provided with the help it needs.

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