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Politics

Taiwan-China ties under spotlight after Hai Pa Wang notice

Restaurant chain voices support for 'One China' days after Tsai's call with Trump

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's call with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump was viewed as provocative as Beijing regards Taiwan as a province and strongly opposes the attempts of any country to establish official relations with the island. (Courtesy of Taiwan's presidential office)

TAIPEI -- Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have intensified days after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump broke with protocol and spoke with pro-independence Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on the phone.

Taiwanese seafood restaurant chain Hai Pa Wang posted a newspaper notice stating its support for "One China" after the company came under Chinese scrutiny allegedly due to its close ties with the family of the island's pro-independence leader Tsai Ing-wen. (Photo by Cheng Ting-Fang)

On Monday, Hai Pa Wang, a Taipei-based seafood restaurant chain with operations in China posted a statement in the pro-Beijing Taiwanese newspaper Want Daily, saying that it backs the view that Taiwan is part of one China.

"Hai Pa Wang has been consistently carrying out its belief that the two sides (across) the Taiwan Strait belong to one China and working to boost cross-strait economic collaboration and developments," the company said in the notice.

Hai Pa Wang's hotpot restaurant in Taipei. The company generates a large chunk of revenue from selling frozen food and operating restaurants in China. (Photo by Cheng Ting-Fang)

Hai Pa Wang earns a large chunk of its revenue from selling frozen food and operating restaurants in China.

Taiwan's National Security Bureau Deputy Director-General Chou Mei-wu told lawmakers that Hai Pa Wang was likely to have been pressured into making the claim as it has come under the scrutiny of Chinese authorities over its taxes. Hai Pa Wang could not be reached for comment.

Hai Pa Wang is allegedly seen as pro-independence by Beijing due to its founder's reported longtime ties with the Tsai family. In Monday's notice, Hai Pa Wang also downplayed its ties to Tsai, saying that no one in the company knew the president personally.

Hai Pa Wang was fined 400,000 yuan ($58,122) for violating food safety regulations in Chengdu earlier last month. Its stores in the southern Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Shantou have also been undergoing regular official inspection.

Tsai's office condemned Beijing's political interference into the operations of Taiwanese businesses in China.

"Any political interference or pressure on Taiwanese companies to express support for a certain political stand will only undermine Taiwanese businesses' willingness to invest in China, and it is also against the stance of both (Beijing and Taipei) to foster the peaceful developments of cross-strait relations," Tsai's office said.

Director Zhang Zhijun of China's Taiwan Affairs Office said on Dec. 2 that his country welcomed investments from Taiwan but did not want those who supported Taiwan's independence to make money in the world's second-largest economy.

Hai Pa Wang's newspaper notice comes just three days after Trump accepted a congratulatory call from Tsai and referred to her as the President of Taiwan on Twitter.

It was the highest-level dialogue between Taipei and Washington since the U.S. cut ties with Taiwan and established formal diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979.

Since then, no Taiwanese leader has spoken to a sitting U.S. president or a president-elect until Tsai's conversation with Trump.

China is strongly opposed to Taiwan's participation in any international event and its establishment of diplomatic ties with other countries, as it sees the island-state as another of its provinces.

Richard Bush, director at Brookings Center for East Asia Policy Studies, said Beijing may handle Trump's diplomatic maneuver in one of two ways.

"It can tolerate this for the sake of having a good relationship with the U.S. as technically, Trump is [still] a private citizen so this is not an interaction between officials of the two governments," Bush said in an email to the Nikkei Asian Review.

China can also, on the other hand, regard the move as the first step in Trump's official policy and decide that it had to nip it in the bud, Bush said.

Since Tsai took office in May, relations between Taipei and Beijing have cooled significantly compared with the eight-year reign of her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou.

Chinese officials are displeased with Tsai's refusal to recognize the "1992 consensus," a controversial doctrine that Beijing sees as marking Taiwan's commitment to eventual unification.

The frostier relationship between China and Taiwan has already affected businesses. China Airlines, Taiwan's largest carrier, said on Monday it faced some "difficulties" with the falling number of tourists from China since Tsai's inauguration. It said that it would push to grow businesses in Europe by launching several direct flights to offset the fall in numbers from the Chinese market.

"Although we do not see continuing deterioration in incoming mainland tourists, we are pushing to seek growth in Europe to diversify markets," said Marian Lu, assistant vice president of China Airlines' corporate communications office.

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