China detains a suspected Taiwanese separatist following Nancy Pelosi’s trip

China on Wednesday detained a suspected Taiwanese separatist on the mainland amid a series of actions taken after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.

Yang Zhi-yuan, a 32-year-old man born in the Taiwanese city of Taichung, was held in custody on suspicion of endangering national security by the National Security Agency of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, state media reported.

Yang was accused of being a long-time advocate of “Taiwan independence” and having founded a “Taiwan Nationalist Party”, which is illegal according to Chinese law. If convicted, he might face punishment up to a death penalty.

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Earlier on Wednesday, Chinese authorities announced their intention to crack down on “Taiwanese separatists” and linked it to tensions over Pelosi’s trip.

The Communist Party’s Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement that “some stubborn Taiwan independence separatists” are “willing to be a pawn of foreign anti-China forces”, stirring up cross-strait confrontation and endangering peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

The goal of Yang’s political party is “promoting Taiwan to become a sovereign and independent country and join the United Nations” and advocating a “referendum on independence and forming a state”, according to the statement.

Yang was accused of pursuing a “hasty independence” in a high-profile manner, planning and implementing “Taiwan independence” activities. It said he had been investigated under the charges of secession and instigating secession.

The report did not specify when or why Yang was in Wenzhou.

According to China’s criminal law, a leader or key figure in an organization that “organises, plots or acts to split the country or undermines national unification” could be jailed from 10 years to life – and those who had committed “particularly serious harms” may be sentenced to death.

As a separate charge, instigating secession may also lead to more than five years in prison.

Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said that Yang’s case reflected Beijing’s resolve in addressing security threats.

“The state security organs have taken measures against ‘Taiwan independence’ elements suspected of endangering national security in accordance with the law, which fully demonstrates that any ‘Taiwan independence’ stubborn elements who try to break the law will not escape the severe punishment of the national law,” Ma said.

Beijing reacted with fury to Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, which it viewed as supporting separatist forces. Beijing regards Taiwan as a rogue province which will eventually be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

In addition to announcing unprecedented military exercises around the island, Beijing also imposed economic sanctions on some Taiwanese industries, businesses and individuals.

Those whom Pelosi met during her short stay included Lee Ming-che, a Taiwanese activist who served five years in a mainland prison in Chishan, Hunan province, on the charge of subversion. Lee was arrested in Guangdong province, convicted in 2017 and was released in April.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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