While children in many countries are starting to fret about Santa’s lists of who was naughty and nice, it is clear that Taiwanese and other advocates for democracy in Hong Kong and the rest of China — not to mention Taiwan’s sovereignty — should be wondering if they might end up on Uncle Xi Jinping’s (習近平) naughty list.
Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao reported this week that Beijing is putting together a list of those it considers to be separatists, including advocates of Taiwanese independence, while an opinion piece in the Global Times cackled with glee that even those not living in Hong Kong can get swept up by its National Security Law, in which advocating secession is a crime, making it no longer safe for them to travel to Hong Kong, Macau or the Chinese mainland, while traveling to other countries “will also be very dangerous for them.”
“This list will be a ‘sword of Damocles’ hanging over their heads for a long time,” it added.
That last bit threatens the kind of extrajudicial kidnapping that saw Causeway Bay Books publisher Gui Minhai (桂民海), a naturalized Swedish citizen, spirited from his Thai vacation home to China, or use of an Interpol red notice to seek to extradite critics such as World Uyghur Congress secretary-general Dolkun Isa or Chinese tycoons sought for alleged financial misdeeds or criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
While Interpol did lift the wanted alert on Isa after protests from rights groups that it was a politically motivated attempt to extradite him — despite Beijing’s claims that it has proof that he is a “terrorist” — such notices can cause legal trouble for those named and limit their freedom of movement.
Not everyone is willing to admit that China, Russia and others have a habit of using such notices as political tools. A blind belief in the validity of Interpol red notices proved an embarrassment to Taiwan during former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, when the National Immigration Agency in July 2009 used one as grounds to bar Isa from entering the country — even though he had no plans to travel here — amid heightened security ahead of the World Games in Kaohsiung.
Then-minister of the interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) compounded the embarrassment by continuing to insist over the following two months that Isa was a terrorist, based on classified information from “an ally,” and that Beijing’s arrest order “was recognized internationally by Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.”
Beijing still insists that Isa is linked to what it calls the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which it claims is a terrorist organization, and which it blames for its clampdown in the Xinjiang region, even though few other nations believe that such a group exists.
So it does not take much imagination to think of a time when Chinese President Xi, in pursuit of his “China dream,” might want the Democratic Progressive Party, the Taiwan Statebuilding Party, the New Power Party and others declared terrorist organizations on the grounds that they promote Taiwan’s independence from China, or that Beijing might seek the extradition of prominent Taiwanese when they travel abroad, such as President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) — who the Global Times reported is already on the naughty list — or independent Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐).
Older Taiwanese know all too well the power that such lists had during the White Terror era.
However, rather than cower or fear to travel in a post-COVID-19 world, Taiwanese and other democracy advocates the world over should see inclusion on any list of Beijing’s as a badge of honor — and step up the campaign to ensure that other governments do not honor the CCP’s wanted notices.
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