China has no right to punish our people.

Taiwan’s President Lai Cheng-te said on Monday that China “has no right to punish” Taiwanese people, after the Chinese government on Friday included the death penalty in new criminal measures against Taiwan independence supporters.

China has always maintained that self-ruling Taiwan is an inalienable part of its territory and has not ruled out using force to reclaim it if necessary. State media reported that Beijing issued new judicial guidelines on Friday that stipulate the death penalty in “serious” cases targeting “fanatic” supporters of Taiwan independence.

“I want to emphasize that democracy is not the root of crime. Tyranny is the root of crime,” Lai said Monday in response to a question about judicial sanctions, adding that China “has no right to punish the people of Taiwan because of what they stand for” and that China has the right to prosecute Taiwanese people outside its borders.

“If (China) does not recognize the existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan’s official name) and does not engage in exchanges and dialogue with the legitimate and democratically elected government of Taiwan,” Lai said, citing a deterioration in relations between the two countries. “This is the right way to improve the welfare of the people of both countries.” The Taiwan Strait is a 180-kilometer-long waterway that separates Taiwan from China.

Days after Taiwan’s president took office last month, China conducted military drills around the island in retaliation for a speech by Lai that Beijing deemed a “recognition of Taiwanese independence.” Lai, who China considers a “dangerous separatist,” has said Taiwan does not need to formally declare independence because it is “genuinely independent.”

Within 48 hours, China had mobilized warships, aircraft, soldiers and missile launchers to conduct a mock encirclement of Taiwan. After military drills in late May, Beijing vowed to continue military pressure on Taiwan “as long as provocative acts related to Taiwan independence continue,” while Taiwan’s military said on Monday that it had observed 23 military aircraft and seven Chinese ships around Taiwan in a 24-hour period.

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