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Firms weigh removing Taiwan staff from China after death penalty threat

Firms weigh removing Taiwan staff from China after death penalty threat

July 8, 2024

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Some foreign companies are considering moving Taiwanese employees out of China after Beijing said it could impose the death penalty on “diehard” Taiwan independence separatists, reports Reuters, citing people familiar with the matter. These new guidelines have caused some Taiwanese expatriates and foreign multinationals operating in China to scramble to assess their legal risks and exposure, said the sources, who include a lawyer and two executives with direct knowledge of the discussions.

Some 177,000 Taiwanese were working in China as of 2022, according to the most recent Taiwan government survey. Taiwanese staff are employed by many multinationals in China, given their linguistic abilities and cultural familiarity with the country.

The 21 June guidelines criminalise promoting Taiwan’s entry to international organisations where statehood is a condition, having external official exchanges and suppressing parties, groups and people that promote “reunification”. Also illegal are “other acts that seek to separate Taiwan from China” - phrasing that allows Beijing to interpret the rules broadly, according to legal experts.

Among “the ringleaders or those who have committed serious crimes”, the guidelines say, “if the harm to the country and the people is particularly serious and the circumstances are particularly bad, they may be sentenced to death.” The regulations do not further specify who might be subject to the death penalty, Reuters reported.

Asked for comment on how companies and Taiwanese employees are reacting to the guidelines, China’s foreign ministry told Reuters in a statement: “Using criminal law measures to punish criminal separatist elements and uphold the country’s core interests is a common practice for all countries.”