China sets sanctions on Taiwan figures to punish US, island

BEIJING (AP) — China imposed visa bans and other sanctions Tuesday on Taiwanese political figures as it raises pressure on the self-governing island and the U.S. in response to successive congressional visits.

The sanctions come a day after China announced more military exercises in the seas and skies surrounding Taiwan because of what it called “collusion and provocation between the U.S. and Taiwan.” There’s been no word on the timing and scale of the Chinese exercises.

They were announced the same day a U.S. congressional delegation met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, and after a similar visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-level member of the U.S. government to visit Taiwan in 25 years. The Chinese government objects to Taiwan having any official contact with foreign governments because it considers Taiwan its own territory, and its recent saber rattling has emphasized its threat to take the island by military force.

Pelosi’s visit was followed by nearly two weeks of threatening Chinese military exercises that included the firing of missiles over the island and incursions by navy ships and warplanes across the midline of the Taiwan Strait that has long been a buffer between the sides.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that China had overreacted with its “provocative and totally unnecessary response to the congressional delegation that visited Taiwan earlier this month.”

The targets of China’s latest sanctions include Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the U.S., Bi-khim Hsiao, and legislators Ker Chien-ming, Koo Li-hsiung, Tsai Chi-chang, Chen Jiau-hua and Wang Ting-yu, along with activist Lin Fei-fan.

They will be barred from traveling to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao, and from having any financial or personal connections with people and entities on the mainland, according to the ruling Communist Party’s Taiwan Work Office.

The measures were designed to “resolutely punish” those considered “diehard elements” supporting Taiwan’s independence, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said.

Premier Su Tseng-chang, leader of the legislature You Si-kun and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu were already on China’s sanctions list and will face more restrictions, Xinhua said.

China exercises no legal authority over Taiwan and it’s unclear what effect the sanctions would have. China has refused all contact with Taiwan’s government since shortly after the 2016 election of Tsai, who was overwhelmingly reelected in 2020.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry tweeted its appreciation for the most recent congressional visit, adding that “Authoritarian #China can’t dictate how democratic #Taiwan makes friends, wins support, stays resilient & shines like a beacon of freedom.”

Tsai’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party also controls the legislature, and the vast majority of Taiwanese favor maintaining the status quo of de facto independence amid strong economic and social connections between the sides.

China accuses the U.S. of encouraging the island’s independence through the sale of weapons and engagement between U.S. politicians and the island’s government. Washington says it does not support independence, has no formal diplomatic ties with the island and maintains that the two sides should settle their dispute peacefully — but it is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself against any attack.

Taiwan has put its military on alert, but has taken no major countermeasures against the Chinese actions. That has been reflected in overriding calm and widespread ambivalence among the public, who have lived under threat of Chinese attack for more than seven decades.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry announced air force and ground-to-air missile drills would be held later in the week.

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