China said it is compiling a list of supporters of formal independence for Taiwan and vowed to punish them, escalating its global campaign against efforts seen as nudging the island democracy out of Beijing's orbit.
A Chinese official on Wednesday confirmed recent reports of moves to create such a list, which came days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo angered Beijing by saying that Taiwan “has not been a part of China.”
The Communist Party has never controlled the self-ruled island but claims it as part of its territory. Beijing has not ruled out taking Taiwan by force, making it a potential flashpoint that could draw the United States into a military conflict with China in the event of an invasion.
The U.S. maintains that it “does not support Taiwan independence,” but the Trump administration has boosted Washington’s unofficial ties with Taipei by selling more weapons to the Taiwanese military and sending high ranking officials to Taiwan. Beijing has criticized these moves as a provocation.
The Chinese government acknowledged that it was drafting a watch list of “stubborn Taiwan separatists” at a press briefing on Wednesday.
Zhu Fenglian, a spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said the list would target an “extremely small number” of people seeking to drive a wedge between the two places and “threaten the peace across the Taiwan Strait.”
“The scores will be settled,” she said.
Zhu did not answer reporters’ questions about when the list will be released or how long it will be. Taiwan, in response to previous reports about the list, said it would only backfire.
“The Beijing authorities are seeking to intimidate Taiwan,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said on Monday. “The Taiwanese people will not back down in the face of these threats.”
Beijing has in recent years sought to isolate Taiwan diplomatically, including by poaching Taipei's allies, most recently the Solomon Islands. In 2019, the Pacific island nation severed its ties with Taipei and began recognizing Beijing instead, citing potential Chinese investment in the country’s infrastructure .
Sensitive to the perception of Taiwan’s independence, the Chinese authorities have also pressured international airlines to name Taiwan as part of China on their websites, a demand that the Trump administration called "Orwellian nonsense."