Business groups fear chilling effect from anti-infiltration act

Opponents have expressed concern that the bill could be used by the government to level unsubstantiated accusations, posing a direct threat to the 2 million Taiwanese who work and study in China. (CNA)
Opponents have expressed concern that the bill could be used by the government to level unsubstantiated accusations, posing a direct threat to the 2 million Taiwanese who work and study in China. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Business groups raised concerns Wednesday over possible chilling effects on cross-Taiwan Strait economic exchanges as a result of the newly passed Anti-infiltration Act, saying the law could have an adverse impact on such exchanges.

Lai Cheng-yi (賴正鎰), chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China, said China is one of the most important markets for many Taiwanese exporters, and he expressed concern that Taiwanese enterprises that have regular exchanges with their Chinese counterparts will refrain from cross-strait exchanges out of fear of breaking the law, which will hinder their business.

The Legislative Yuan, controlled by the pro-independence ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), passed the Act Tuesday despite protests from opposition lawmakers who said it could be used to suppress those who hold different political views to the government.

The China-friendly opposition Kuomintang (KMT) has expressed concern that the bill could be used by the government to level unsubstantiated accusations, posing a direct threat to the 2 million Taiwanese who work and study in China.

In her New Year’s Day speech, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) defended her decision to ram through the legislation a day earlier that criminalizes political activities backed by China.

She said the new law will help safeguard the nation’s democracy by complementing existing laws that already proscribe acts of infiltration.

“We must be aware that China is infiltrating all facets of Taiwanese society to sow division. We must establish democratic defense mechanisms to prevent infiltration, Tsai said in her speech, adding that the law is against infiltration by China rather than targeting cross-strait exchanges.

In response, however, Lai said the new law falls short of a clear definition of what constitutes an act of infiltration, meaning that the authorities are free to decide whether the law has been violated, based on their own interpretations.

“Amid fears that they will be easily criminalized by the law due to a lack of a concrete definition, Taiwanese companies could stop conducting exchanges across the Taiwan Strait,” Lai said, urging the government to resume official exchanges with China.

Echoing Lai, Lee Yu-chia (李育家), head of The National Association of Small & Medium Enterprises, said many small and medium-sized enterprises in Taiwan hope that Taiwan and China will normalize their bilateral ties by restarting an official dialogue.

Lee said that when Taiwanese investors want to enter the China market, they have to make contact with China’s Taiwan Affairs Office and the Association of Taiwanese Investment Enterprises on the mainland.

“So, as the Anti-infiltration Act goes into effect, Taiwanese firms are expected to see limitations on their activities on the mainland,” Lee said. “I hope the new law will give us a grace period to buffer the impact,” he added.

As soon as the law cleared the Legislative floor Tuesday, the DPP administration insisted that it will not impact law-abiding Taiwanese citizens living in China.

It added that the bill is urgently needed, especially with the upcoming Jan. 11 presidential and legislative elections, to safeguard Taiwan’s democracy from the increasing coercion and threats from China, and its repeated attempts to infiltrate the country’s politics.