China threatens ‘diehard’ Taiwan separatists with death penalty

China has in the past accused Taiwan’s president, Lai Ching-te, of being a ‘separatist’ who staged war games

China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has made no secret of its dislike of president Lai Ching-te. Photograph: Annabelle Chih/Getty Images

China on Friday threatened to impose the death penalty in extreme cases for “diehard” Taiwan independence separatists, a ratcheting up of pressure even though Chinese courts have no jurisdiction on the democratically governed island.

China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has made no secret of its dislike of president Lai Ching-te who took office last month, saying he is a “separatist”, and staged war games shortly after his inauguration.

Taiwan has complained of a pattern of ramped up Chinese pressure since Lai won the election in January, including ongoing military actions, trade sanctions and coast guard patrols around Taiwan-controlled islands next to China.

Lai Ching-te calls on China to ‘face reality’ and stop intimidating TaiwanOpens in new window ]

The new guidelines say China’s courts, prosecutors, public and state security bodies should “severely punish Taiwan independence diehards for splitting the country and inciting secession crimes in accordance with the law, and resolutely defend national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity”, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.


The guidelines are being issued in accordance with laws already on the books, including the 2005 anti-succession law, Xinhua said.

That law gives China the legal basis for military action against Taiwan if it secedes or seems about to.

Sun Ping, an official from China’s ministry of public security, told reporters in Beijing the maximum penalty for the “crime of secession” was the death penalty.

“The sharp sword of legal action will always hang high,” she said.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council on Friday slammed Beijing's move, urging its people not to be threatened by China.

“The Beijing authorities have absolutely no jurisdiction over Taiwan, and the Chinese communists’ so-called laws and norms have no binding force on our people. The government appeals to our country’s people to feel at ease and not to be threatened or intimidated by the Chinese communist party,” it said in a statement.

The guidelines detail what is considered a crime worthy of punishment, including promoting Taiwan's entry to international organisations where statehood is a condition, having “external official exchanges” and “suppressing” parties, groups and people that promote “reunification”.

The guidelines add a further clause to what could be considered a crime – “other acts that seek to separate Taiwan from China” – meaning the rules can be broadly interpreted.

Lai has repeatedly offered to hold talks with China but has been rebuffed. He says only Taiwan's people can decide their future.

China has taken legal measures against Taiwanese officials before, including imposing sanctions on Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s former de facto ambassador to the United States and now the island’s vice-president.

Such punishments have little practical effect as Chinese courts do not have jurisdiction in Taiwan, whose government rejects Beijing's sovereignty claims.

Senior Taiwanese officials, including its president, also do not visit China. – Reuters