China said it would punish businesses and political donors with links to individuals supporting Taiwanese independence after it fined Taiwanese conglomerate Far Eastern Group (遠東集團).
“Businesses and financial sponsors associated with supporters of Taiwan independence will be penalized according to law,” Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian (朱鳳蓮) told reporters on Monday, according to a statement from her agency.
Zhu said that backers of independence undermine cross-strait relations and risk instability in the region.
Zhu made the remark as she responded to a question about whether the punishment Far Eastern received earlier on Monday was connected to China’s efforts to sanction Taiwanese politicians who support independence.
While Zhu did not directly characterize Far Eastern as an associate of pro-independence politicians, she said that China would never allow individuals and businesses with such views to make profits in China.
In Taipei, the Mainland Affairs Council yesterday severely condemned the remarks, saying that it would discuss and take necessary countermeasures against China’s malicious measures against Taiwan.
As the overall investment environment in China is deteriorating due to its regulatory tightening, increasing restrictions on private enterprises and escalating political interference, Taiwanese businesses are facing growing risks in their investments and operations in China, the council said, urging companies to make plans with a long-term vision.
“The current sanction is restricted to Far Eastern Group, and its magnitude does not seem overly costly,” said Yongwook Ryu, assistant professor of East Asian international relations at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. “But what is important is its signaling effect both to foreign and Taiwanese businesses, as well as to the Chinese public, that the Chinese government shall not tolerate any bit of Taiwanese independence movement or support.”
Far Eastern, which has businesses across a range of sectors, has donated to the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the China-friendly Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
The conglomerate gave about US$2 million to the DPP in the run-up to the January legislative elections last year, making it the party’s biggest donor, said Taipei-based Wealth Magazine, citing statistics posted online by the government.
Chinese National Federation of Industries (全國工業總會) secretary-general Tsai Lien-sheng (蔡練生) said that it was inappropriate for China to link legal matters with politics and said the episode could be worrisome for Taiwanese businesspeople.
“Far Eastern has made donations to not only the DPP, but also to the KMT and other parties,” he said. “This is what it has to do, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it supports Taiwanese independence.”
A number of Far Eastern units in China were fined after they were found to be breaching laws and regulations, Xinhua news agency reported, although the figure was not disclosed.
It cited alleged contraventions by the group’s textile and cement ventures in environmental protection, land use, employees’ health, safe production, tax payment and product quality.
The two affected firms — Asia Cement Corp (亞洲水泥) and Far Eastern New Century Corp (遠東新世紀) — were fined a total of 88.6 million yuan (US$13.9 million), according to separate statements from the companies.
Both said their operations in China were not impacted in a major way.
Representatives from the two firms said they did not have anything to add to their statements.
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