Taiwan’s landmark anti-infiltration bill passed its third reading at the Legislative Yuan on Tuesday and is set to become law before the island’s presidential election on January 11.

The bill, mainly aimed at fending off Chinese spies and espionage, was rammed through the ruling Democratic Progressive Party-controlled legislature after it was drafted only one month ago, although lawmakers from the opposition Kuomintang party tried to stall the process as they sought clarification on some key articles of the act.

The bill will outlaw and mete out heavier penalties against activities by foreign hostile forces including political donations, lobbying, election interference and the spread of misinformation, all of which are not covered by existing laws, according to the government.

Offenders will face a maximum seven-year jail term or a maximum fine of NT$5 million (US$165,000).

China is a stated “hostile force,” defined in the 12-article bill as any country or group at war or in a military stand-off with Taiwan that seeks to jeopardize its sovereignty.

The two governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are still technically at war as no peace treaty was signed after Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island in 1949 when the mainland fell to Mao Zedong’s Red Army.

Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan also passed new amendments to make people from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau punishable under the island’s anti-espionage laws. Photo: Central News Agency, Taiwan

Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported that, during the negotiations, the KMT caucus had proposed that anyone who was approached, instructed or financed by a hostile force for the purpose of infiltration should report the issue to Taiwan’s National Security Bureau instead of the DPP’s stance of banning such political donations altogether. The proposal, however, was rejected by the DPP.

The DPP argued that it was exigent for the bill to be passed to safeguard Taiwan’s democracy from the coercion and threats from China, while the KMT lashed out at the low threshold of conviction, highlighting the risk to the two million Taiwanese working and studying on the mainland.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking re-election and with her chances of winning on the rise, had vowed to enact the bill before the end of 2019, when the legislature would go into recess.

With her DPP majority in the legislature, she brushed aside calls for discussion of the bill after the January 11 presidential and legislative elections so that all parties involved could cool down to reach a consensus.

Still, Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan gave all parties chances to voice their stances Tuesday morning, before the bill was put to a vote later in the day.

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