Is Taiwan on a witch-hunt against Beijing-friendly parties?

Island’s administration insists national security investigation is above board and just part of the judicial process

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 9:49pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 10:00am

A Beijing-friendly party on Taiwan has accused the island’s government of mounting a political witch-hunt after several of its members were questioned by prosecutors over national security concerns.

But the administration rejected the claim on Wednesday, saying the investigation was not politically motivated.

New Party officials made the allegation after Taiwanese prosecutors searched the homes of four party members on Tuesday morning before questioning them as “witnesses” in a case involving alleged violations of the island’s national security laws.

Three of the four people questioned had been part of a New Party delegation that last week visited the mainland, where they met various officials, including Yu Zhengsheng, head of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

All four people were released by early Wednesday.

Taiwanese prosecutors search homes of pro-unification New Party officials

New Party deputy secretary general Tsai Cheng-chung said the investigation was a response to the party’s long-standing opposition to President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration and an attempt to weaken the island’s Beijing-friendly forces.

“The pro-independence government has been attacking Taiwan’s pro-unification forces for a long time and we are strongly against this. We have also criticised Tsai Ing-wen’s government for its mistakes in various online platforms like Facebook,” Tsai Cheng-chung said.

“Her government wants to deter others who also have pro-Beijing views and tells young people not to join us.”

But he said the investigation would not stop the party from contact with the mainland, and their planned activities would continue.

In a short statement on Tuesday, Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office condemned the investigation and applauded the New Party for its opposition to Taiwanese independence and for upholding the one-China principle, which states that Taiwan is part of China.

But Chiu Chui-cheng, spokesman for Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said the investigation did not target a people for their political views.

“Taiwan is democratic and ruled by law. The case is a common judicial case that is being handled by the related department,” Chiu said. “It is not targeted at a specific political force over its political position.”

Increased military drills suggest mainland China is preparing to strike against Taiwan, experts say

Relations between Beijing and Taipei have nosedived since Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) became the island’s president last year. Beijing has been dismayed by what it says is Tsai Ing-wen’s refusal to accept the “1992 consensus”, an understanding that there is only one China, though each side can have its interpretation of what “China” stands for.

A researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Taiwan Studies said the investigation into the New Party members reflected deep anxiety within the island’s government.

“Taiwan’s economy is not very good at the moment and the DPP will be under pressure in local elections next year. Tsai Ing-wen has to show her anti-China position to consolidate her party’s support,” the researcher said.

Cross-strait affairs specialist Zhu Jie, from Wuhan University, said the investigation would undermine the already limited links between the two sides of the strait.

“Given the fragile level of trust across the strait ... the investigation will worry the island’s other Beijing-friendly forces,” Zhu said.

Increased military drills suggest mainland China is preparing to strike against Taiwan, experts say

Taiwan-based cross-strait analyst Chang Ling-chen said the investigation into the New Party officials so soon after some had returned from the mainland signalled that Taipei was highly suspicious of cross-strait links.

“It’s ironic if the New Party was targeted solely because it calls publicly for unification. There are many organisations in Taiwan that call for close ties with Japan but none of those have been investigated,” Chang said.

Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province to and has not renounced the use of force to bring it back under mainland control.

Cross-strait tensions have risen in recent weeks as the People’s Liberation Army has stepped up air force patrols around the island.