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Taiwan urges citizens to avoid travel to China, Hong Kong and Macao following Beijing threats

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan has urged its citizens to avoid travel to China and the semi-autonomous Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macao following threats from Beijing to execute supporters of the self-governing island democracy’s independence.

Spokesperson and deputy head of the Mainland Affairs Council Liang Wen-chieh issued the advisory at a news conference Thursday.

That came amid growing threats from China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary.

China’s threat to hunt down and execute “hardcore” Taiwan independence supporters follows the election of Lai Ching-te of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party as president. China has refused all contact with Taiwan’s government since the election in 2016 of former president Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP, who refused to endorse Beijing’s demand that Taiwan recognizes itself as a part of China, seen as a prelude to political unification between the sides.

“In response to the new guidelines related to the so-called ‘secession crime,’ the government has the responsibility to remind citizens that there are genuine risks involved” in such visits, Liang said. The government is not banning visits, but those that do travel should not express political opinions or carry books or post online about topics that the authoritarian Communist Party would use to detain and potentially prosecute them.

Hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese live in China or travel their for business, tourism or family visits each year. China has also hosted visits by local Taiwanese officials and leaders of the opposition Nationalist Party, which backs eventual unification between the sides.

The sides operate direct flights and mainland Chinese are permitted