TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Prosecutors in Taiwan have indicted two leaders of the island’s tiny Taiwan People’s Communist Party on accusations they colluded with China in an effort to influence next year’s elections for president and members of the legislative assembly.
Party Chairman Lin Te-wang and Vice Chairman Chen Chien-hsin were accused on Tuesday of violating the Anti-Infiltration Act and the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act after having accepted funds and other benefits from China’s ruling Communist Party, the official Central News Agency said.
It wasn’t clear whether the two men were in Taiwan when the indictments were issued.
Taiwan will elect a new president and legislators in January, and Beijing is suspected of seeking to boost the chances of politicians favoring political unification between the sides through social media and the free press and by bankrolling candidates it favors. Current Vice President William Lai, whose Democratic Progressive Party party strongly backs maintaining Taiwan’s current status of de-facto independence from China, is leading in most polls.
A former Japanese colony, Taiwan split from China amid civil war in 1949 and has since evolved into a thriving democracy that tolerates a wide range of political views. Beijing continues to regard the island of 23 million with its high-tech economy as Chinese territory and has been steadily upping its threat to achieve that goal by military force if necessary.
A one-time ranking member of the pro-unification opposition Nationalist Party, Lin founded the Taiwan People’s Communist Party in 2017 and has maintained close ties with China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, a Cabinet-level agency dedicated to pursuing China’s unification agenda.
Lin failed twice in bids for local government council seats and staged protests against a visit by then-speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi last year, all allegedly funded by China, CNA reported. He also allegedly worked as an adviser to the local Taiwan Affairs Office in China’s Shandong province, CNA said.
No word of the indictments appeared on the party’s Facebook page and calls to its listed phone number in the southern city of Taiwan said it had been disconnected.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office condemned the indictments on Tuesday, accusing the ruling DPP of “making unjustified moves against those who advocate peaceful reunification across the Taiwan Strait,” and saying the actions were “made with malicious intentions,” China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported.
In their pursuit of Taiwan’s formal independence, the DPP and unidentified “separatist forces” have abused the law to suppress those advocating unification with China, office spokesperson Zhu Fenglian said.
“Such despicable acts will surely be strongly condemned and resolutely opposed by people on both sides of the Strait,” Zhu was quoted as saying.
Despite close cultural and economic ties between the two sides, surveys show the vast majority of Taiwanese oppose accepting rule under China’s authoritarian one-party system, which crushes all opposition and any form of criticism while maintaining an aggressive foreign policy toward the United States and other key Taiwanese allies.
The DPP and the Nationalists, also known as the KMT, dominate politics in Taiwan, and the local Communist Party has a miniscule influence on elections and public opinion in general, despite staging attention-getting demonstrations during polls or surrounding visits by foreign supporters of Taipei, such as Pelosi.