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Chinese Government Expands Criminalization of Taiwanese Identity

Human RightsChinese Government Expands Criminalization of Taiwanese Identity

New judiciary guidelines in China specify that crimes of secession by Taiwanese “separatists” are punishable under Chinese law. The guidelines authorize the use of trials in absentia and even the death penalty for anyone asserting Taiwan’s independence.

The People’s Republic of China since its founding in 1949 has never ruled Taiwan and has no jurisdiction over Taiwan, which is democratically governed.

The guidelines regarding Taiwanese “separatists” are stark reminders that the Chinese government routinely threatens Taiwan and its 23 million inhabitants and has expanded its aggressive efforts to stifle their basic freedoms.

China’s 2005 Anti-Secession Law made vague threats of using “other measures” against “Taiwanese secessionist forces” without specifying what constituted “secessionist.” The new guidelines make a criminal offense anything related to Taiwanese independence, including “establishing a ‘Taiwan Independence’ separatist organization,” “promoting Taiwan’s entrance into international organizations,” and deviating from the Chinese narrative of Taiwan “in fields such as education, culture, history, or news media.” Other overly broad offenses include “conduct seeking to separate Taiwan from China” and “otherwise actively participat[ing]” in Taiwanese “separatist organizations.”

The guidelines threaten in absentia trials with no statute of limitations for those who evade being tried. They also do not differentiate between Taiwanese and foreign nationals.

The new guidelines also threaten the death penalty for “crimes” considered “especially serious or … vile.” The Chinese government carries out the most executions in the world, although the exact number remains a state secret. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty.

Taiwan has raised its alert levels for Taiwanese nationals traveling to China, citing recent cases of arbitrary arrests, detention, and interrogations. These new guidelines are likely to have a further chilling effect on the approximately 150,000 Taiwanese nationals living in China, for whom self-censorship is routine.

The new court guidelines are the Chinese government’s latest effort to control people’s right to freedom of expression beyond its borders. Everyone has fundamental rights and freedoms, including those who believe in or advocate for Taiwanese independence.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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