Taiwanese citizens are told to avoid China after it threatens independence advocates

Taiwan on Thursday raised the alert level for travel to China and urged its citizens to visit the country only if absolutely necessary, after Beijing mentioned possible punishments – including execution in extreme cases – for what it calls “diehard supporters of Taiwanese called independence’.

China considers Taiwan, a democratically governed island of 23 million people about 100 miles off the mainland coast, as its territory. It demands that Taiwan ultimately accept unification and has long condemned Taiwanese who oppose its claims to the island.

Last week, China stepped up the pressure by issuing legal guidelines which details the steps it could take to punish proponents of Taiwanese self-rule. They came as tensions between US-backed Taiwan and China continue to rise. Last month, Taiwan swore in a new president, Lai Ching-te, who has vowed to preserve democracy on the island and is condemned by Beijing.

The new rules China adopted allow execution of what it describes as exceptionally serious cases of Taiwanese separatism, although the language does not say exactly what actions could constitute a serious crime.

In answerTaiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which handles policy toward the mainland, said Beijing had “increased the risk to personal safety for nationals traveling to China, Hong Kong and Macau” by “insisting on its own position” on Taiwan.

The new president, Mr Lai, criticized the new rules. “China has no right to punish Taiwanese people for their political views or pursue persecution across its borders,” he said said on social media earlier this week. “Democracy is not a crime; autocracy is what is truly evil.”

Mr Lai called on China to engage in dialogue, and did not call for Taiwanese independence, saying he wanted to maintain the status quo, with Taiwan having autonomous government.

However, Beijing has denounced Mr Lai, declared him a separatist and greeted his new government with inflammatory rhetoric and a series of military exercises near the island.

Despite Beijing’s growing hostility and military muscle, many Taiwanese appear optimistic. recent survey showed that most people on the island are convinced that the United States will intervene if China carries out an invasion. However, some wonder whether Washington and its own government have unnecessarily irritated Beijing.

Beijing has a history of locking up people with links to Taiwan.

In 2023, a Chinese citizen living in Taiwan, Li Yanhe, who published books criticizing the Chinese Communist Party, was charged with crimes against national security. And in 2022, a democracy advocate, Li Ming-che, was released after serving five years in a Chinese prison on charges of subverting the government.

a generation gap in travel has also emerged among Taiwanese, as ties with the mainland have been severed. A 2023 poll found that travelers over the age of 40 were much more likely to visit China than their younger counterparts, who were more likely to visit Japan.

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