Taiwan tycoon says he does not support independence after China fine

11/30/2021 | 04:19am

TAIPEI (Reuters) -The billionaire chairman of a Taiwanese conglomerate said on Tuesday he does not support independence from China after Beijing fined his company in an apparent warning to it and other businesses to toe the Chinese line on sovereignty claims.

China took aim last week at Taiwan's Far Eastern Group, which has interests ranging from hotels to petrochemicals, for a series of problems, from tax to fire safety, with fines totalling 474 million yuan ($74.4 million).

While China has not directly said the company is guilty of supporting independence for the Chinese-claimed island, government statements on the fines have warned https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/choose-side-china-tells-taiwan-firms-it-punishes-conglomerate-2021-11-22 Taiwanese firms they could not expect to operate in China and support independence.

In an open letter to Taiwan's United Daily News, Far Eastern Chairman Douglas Hsu said that "under the current political atmosphere in Taiwan" certain public opinions put "a sense of guilt" on Taiwanese firms investing in China, which was unnecessary.

In recent years, many opinion polls showed most Taiwanese support maintaining the current status quo across the Taiwan Strait, he said.

"Like most Taiwanese, I hope that cross-strait relations 'maintain the status quo.' I have always opposed Taiwan independence," he said.

Hsu, who is worth $2.4 billion according to Forbes, said while Taiwanese companies were unable to resolve the political difficulties, they have always hoped for peace and "normal exchanges and interactions".

China has heaped pressure on the island to accept Beijing's rule. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says Taiwan will not bend to pressure, and that she will defend Taiwan's democracy and freedom.

China said earlier this month it would hold those who support the island's formal independence, including companies, criminally liable.

Asked to comment on Hsu's remarks and if he had been forced into making them by China, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters that China was "always rude and unreasonable, and does not understand democracy, plurality or respect".

Even China's own business elites could disappear or be punished, he added.

"It's even the case for the prettiest female stars," Su said, in possible reference to tennis player Peng Shuai, whose whereabouts have caused international concern after she alleged that a former top Chinese official had sexually assaulted her.

In a separate response to Hsu's letter, Taiwan's Economy Ministry said the island was the "safest, most stable investment environment" and that it was committed to helping firms to keep investing on the island.

"Taiwan's government will not force any company to make political statements. We treat all of them equally and help companies invest in Taiwan," it added.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Stephen Coates and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

© Reuters 2022
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