Taipei, July 3 (CNA) The Legislative Yuan passed an amendment bill Wednesday to bar certain retired high-ranking military officers and senior political appointees from engaging in political activities organized by the Chinese authorities.
Violators who harm the nation's dignity will risk losing their pensions.
According to the amended Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, military officers ranked major-general or higher, deputy chiefs and chiefs of the Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and National Security Bureau, as well as chiefs of intelligence agencies, are prohibited from attending political or military events held by agencies, institutions, organizers that are Chinese political parties, the military, the Chinese administration, or of any political nature.
Those found to have attended political or military events and making gestures that undermine Taiwan's dignity, such as saluting flags and emblems, or singing songs that symbolize Chinese political power, could have their monthly pension payments suspended or face a fine of between NT$2 million (US$64,323) and NT$10 million if they have accepted a lump sum payment rather than a pension.
The amended law also prohibits travel to China by civil servants and military personnel who had access to classified information for a minimum of three years after they leave their posts or retire, instead of the flexible three-year travel ban currently in place.
Under the current regulations, government and military personnel are also in principle banned from travel to China for three years after leaving their posts or retiring, with their former agencies deciding whether to extend or cut the ban.
Currently, municipality mayors, county magistrates, city mayors and political appointees must undergo a review by a panel of officials from the MAC, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior before being allowed to visit China.
The amended law stipulates that political appointees should report to their respective agencies, while municipality mayors should report to the Executive Yuan, and county magistrates and city mayors must report to the Ministry of the Interior upon their return to Taiwan from China.
The new legislation also prescribes that retired officials and military officers with knowledge of national defense, foreign affairs, technology, intelligence, or Chinese affairs, or those who have been involved in national security, national interests or have had access to confidential information, to report any plans to visit China to the agency at which they worked.
An estimated 2,000 retirees will be subject to the new ban, according to MAC statistics.
The amendment was introduced after 32 retired military officers from Taiwan, including retired Lt. Gen. Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷) attended a Sun Yat-sen memorial event in China in November 2016, during which they stood up to show respect when the Chinese national anthem was sung, attracting criticism in Taiwan.
Wu said Wednesday that the legislation represents the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's distrust of the army and an insult to retired generals and soon-to-retire generals, and is in violation of the concept of a democratic country in which legislation should not constrain freedom of speech and movement targeting any particular group.
Meanwhile, retired Maj. Gen. Yu Bei-chen (于北辰) expressed his approval of amending the law, but said that the legislation should not go so far as to limit personal freedom.
DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) hailed the amendment as the final one of five amended laws approved by the Legislature that seek to bolster Taiwan's defenses against China, which include an amendment to the treason section of the Criminal Code passed May 7 that expands the scope of treason by including collusion with China, Hong Kong, Macau, and "overseas enemy forces and their agents.”
Also May 7, an amendment was also passed that extends a three-year travel restriction for government officials who have had access to classified information but have already left their posts for six years.
Another amendment that revises the penalties for treason cleared the legislative floor June 19. Under the amended law, individuals or groups that help the Chinese government establish, direct or develop organizations in Taiwan face a minimum of seven years in prison and a fine of up to NT$100 million, up from a jail term of five years and a fine of up to NT$1 million.
In addition, the Legislature passed May 31 an amendment that stipulates that any potential political accord with China will need not only the approval of lawmakers, but also of the people via a national referendum.