Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp and other companies associated with pro-independence businessmen aren't welcome in China, the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily said, signaling China may use its economic clout to try to snuff out "separatist sentiment."
"The mainland very much welcomes the majority of Taiwanese business people who love the motherland," the paper said, adding that their businesses would get preferential treatment.
But China doesn't want investment from Chi Mei Chairman Hsu Wen-long (
The front-page editorial attacked Hsu, founder of Chi Mei Corp, as a "shameless" anti-Chinese bigot.
The editorial implied that Hsu was using profits from his petrochemical and optoelectronics businesses in China to fund pro-independence politicians -- including President Chen Shui-bian (
Hsu, a known supporter of the Democratic Progressive Party, has frequently criticized China's claims over Taiwan.
Shares in Chi Mei, which is planning its first plant in China, plunged by 6.9 percent -- just below the stock exchange's daily limit -- to NT$67.
Hsu, 76, the sixth-richest man in Taiwan according to Forbes magazine, has been a policy adviser to President Chen Shui-bian .
The People's Daily commentary didn't say what action China would take toward businesspeople perceived to favor independence.
"China is trying to send a message that it has many options: business sanctions, international isolation and military force," said Andrew Yang (
"They are squeezing the Taiwan economy to increase the pressure on Chen Shui-bian. Chen hasn't done anything to reassure them that he won't take steps in favor of independence," he said.
Chi Mei Optoelectronics last year approved plans to spend more than US$30 million on its first factory in China, finance manager Eddie Chen (
The newspaper didn't say whether China was considering direct retaliation against Chi Mei's businesses in China.
It runs a massive petrochemical complex in the southern city of Zhenjiang.
"We haven't received any official notice from China," Eddie Chen said, referring to the newspaper's criticism.
Hsu founded the Chi Mei Group in 1953 with a plastics factory and later expanded into petrochemicals, electronics, frozen foods and healthcare.
The conglomerate employs more than 10,000 people and had sales of more than US$3 billion in 2002, the year Chi Mei Optoelectronics became the first of the group to go public.
Three petrochemical plants and a shipping unit operate in China, the company Web site said.
The People's Daily editorial comes a week after a Chinese government spokesman said businesses supporting Taiwan's independence would "not be welcome to come make money in the mainland."
That was China's most explicit indication so far that it's monitoring Taiwanese investors' political views, and may use them to evaluate their fitness for doing business in China.
Despite a lack of official contact or direct transport links, Taiwanese have invested about US$100 billion in China since 1987. The companies sent US$55.7 billion from China back to Taiwan from 1993 to 2002.
China has avoided overt threats in the past, partly due to a need for Taiwanese investment, but also because Beijing believes Taiwan's growing economic reliance will help speed unification.
The People's Daily also accused Hsu of preferring to use Hoklo, commonly referred to as Taiwanese, or Japanese over the Mandarin dialect widely spoken in China.
It also criticized his friendship with Taiwan's former president, Lee Teng-hui, whom China vilifies for supporting Taiwanese independence.
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