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China sets sanctions on Taiwan politicians in wake of US visits

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen exchanges gift with US Democrat Sen Ed Markey of Massachusetts during a meeting at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022 (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)
Associated Press Reporters

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 a day after China 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 own territory, and its recent actions have emphasised 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 totally 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 travelling to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao, and from having any financial or personal connections with people and entities in those areas, 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.

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.

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.

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