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Taiwanese giant slapped with fines over mainland regulatory violations

Amer Asia ReportMainland subsidiaries of a major Taiwanese industrial group have been punished for a range of regulatory and legal violations, including environmental protection rules, state media reported. The action against Far Eastern Group comes amid rising cross-strait tensions, as Beijing vows to resolutely crack down on the pro-independence camp in Taiwan while the self-ruled island fosters closer ties with the US and European Union. The Taipei-based conglomerate is a major donor to the island’s election campaigns, according to Taiwanese media reports. China insists Taiwan has no right to join United Nations Far Eastern-invested polyester and textile, and cement companies in Shanghai and the provinces of Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Hubei and Sichuan were penalised over violations related to environmental protection, land use, employee occupational health, production safety and fire protection, taxation and product quality, Xinhua reported on Monday. The punishments ranged from fines, orders to pay tax arrears or rectify the issues concerned within a set time frame, to warnings that idle construction land would be taken back by the state. The companies involved had admitted the charges, and investigations were still in progress, Xinhua said. A spokesman for Far Eastern Group in Taiwan said they were still trying to understand the situation. This comes about two weeks after Beijing threatened to slap criminal charges on and ban those seen to be part of the “diehard” Taiwanese pro-independence force. Three top Taiwanese officials – Premier Su Tseng-chang, Legislative Yuan president Yu Shyi-kun and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu – were named on the blacklist released by Beijing on November 12 for “vigorously inciting cross-strait confrontation and malicious attacks against the mainland”. It had also said sponsors of those on the blacklist, such as those who fund their election campaigns, would be banned from doing business on the mainland. The Xinhua report did not mention if there was a link between the punishment meted out to mainland arms of the Far Eastern Group and its political stance. The economy minister of Taiwan, Wang Mei-hua, said the company had been punished on the mainland because of environmental protection rules, the island’s United Daily News reported. But she could not say whether it was a case of Taiwanese companies being suppressed, as she did not have the details, the report said. According to its website, Far Eastern now spans 10 major industries, and total assets for its nine publicly listed companies at the end of 2018 exceeded NT$2.62 trillion, with annual revenues surpassing NT$719 billion. The group has extensive investments in the polyester, petrochemicals, cement production and retail sectors in mainland China. Mainland observers said Beijing was not in a hurry to seek reunification by force, but would use legal and economic means to get its message across. They believe punishment meted out to the sponsors of those on the blacklist was likely to have a strong deterrent effect and might affect future Taiwan elections. “It is intolerable that these enterprises gained a lot of profit in the mainland while supporting Taiwan independence, and they are now panicking and have to stop,” said Wang Jianmin, a Taiwan issues specialist at Minnan Normal University in Fujian province. Additional reporting by Lawrence Chung

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