Lawbreakers set to be pardoned Taiwanese authorities will relax rules on mainland-bound investments and pardon firms with unauthorised mainland investments in a bid to woo Taiwanese businessmen ahead of the island's presidential election on March 22. Speaking at a cabinet meeting yesterday, Premier Chang Chun-hsiung said the measures were aimed at encouraging Taiwanese business owners to increase their investments on the island. 'This is to demonstrate the government's goodwill and sincerity in taking care of the interests of Taiwanese businesspeople,' he said. Without raising the ceiling on mainland-bound investments, the government said it was willing to be more flexible in defining the existing 40 per cent investment rule. Under current regulations, each company may invest up to only 40 per cent of its net asset value across the strait. Under the new measures, the figure will be based on a group's net assets rather than the net assets of a single company. This will allow a company to use the quotas of other companies in its group to increase its investments on the mainland. Companies that expand their investments in Taiwan will be eligible to make their mainland-bound investments equivalent to 40 per cent of their expanded investments on the island, further increasing the allowable size of the Taiwanese firms' mainland investments. Also effective from yesterday, the government ruled that Taiwan firms would be pardoned for unauthorised mainland investments after paying a 'symbolic fine', Mr Chang said. But Mainland Affairs Council chairman Chen Ming-tong said there were limits to the pardons because they did not apply to companies making unauthorised investments in sensitive and strategic industries. 'A fine of just NT$50,000 (HK$12,590) will be imposed on firms making unauthorised investments of up to US$20 million, NT$100,000 on investments between US$20 million and US$100 million under the plan,' the chairman said. He added that for investments of more than US$100 million, authorities would calculate the fine. To encourage Taiwanese businesspeople overseas to return to Taiwan to invest, Mr Chang announced a plan to allow them to become listed on the Taipei stock market. But the funds they would raise would not be allowed to be channelled to the mainland for investment, and companies currently investing on the mainland or having more than 20 per cent in mainland-based backing would be barred. Ma Ying-jeou, the presidential candidate of the opposition Kuomintang, said the measures were announced to drum up support for his ruling Democratic Progressive Party opponent, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting. 'How come the DPP government has not been able to do this in the past eight years?' he said. 'How come suddenly it can do it less than three weeks before the election?'