By Yimou Lee
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan “urgently” needs to pass a planned anti-infiltration law to face threats from China to penetrate the island, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday, denouncing China’s opposition to it as illogical and hypocritical.
The legislation is part of a years-long effort to combat what many in Taiwan see as Chinese efforts to influence politics and the democratic process, through illicit funding of politicians and the media and other underhand methods.
China claims Taiwan as its territory, to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if necessary. Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name.
Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has begun a renewed push for the legislation, ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections on Jan. 11. The bill is due for debate in parliament again on Tuesday, when it may pass into law.
In a televised policy address – on which formal debate is set for Sunday – Tsai said the bill was about a threat from China that is not as easy to see as the likes of the Chinese aircraft carrier which sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday.
“I think that certainly there is an urgency in Taiwan society for the anti-infiltration law,” Tsai said. “I hope that we can as soon as possible examine it.”
Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, which favors close ties with China, has condemned the proposed legislation as a “political tool” of Tsai and her DPP to gain votes while trying to paint them as Chinese Communist Party agents.
They also say the bill will only criminalize normal exchanges with China, something Tsai and the DPP have denied.
China’s policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office reiterated its opposition to the bill this week too, saying the DPP was trying to “blatantly reverse over” democracy and increase enmity.
Tsai said it was totally hypocritical of an autocratic China that lacks democracy, human rights or freedom of speech to use the language of democracy to criticize the bill.
“China has no democracy and yet it is criticizing Taiwan for reversing over democracy,” she said. “China has no democratic elections and interferes in Taiwan’s democratic elections the whole day long. This is an absurd and laughable position.”
China has denied seeking to interfere in Taiwan’s elections.
Tsai’s main opponent, the Kuomintang’s Han Kuo-yu, did not directly mention the bill, but again slammed senior DPP politicians for previous visits they have made to China. Han went to China earlier this year and met senior officials.
“Your exchanges are just exchanges, but our contacts are selling out Taiwan?” Han said, holding up a picture of DPP officials meeting with Chinese counterparts.
(Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Mark Heinrich)