Confucius Institutes have been added to a list of Chinese political, governmental and military bodies at which Taiwan’s citizens are banned from working, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said on Thursday.

In a press release, the MAC said that revisions to an existing act prohibit Taiwanese nationals from working for any Chinese organization involved in matters relating to national identity and loyalty, united front work, or which threatens national security.

Specifically, the revised guidelines ban citizens from working at Confucius Institutes — non-profit educational institutes funded by China’s government to spread Chinese culture. These have also come under suspicion as tools for political influence.

Also added to the blacklist were the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) — China’s semi-official body in charge of handling technical and business matters with Taiwan — as well as the All-China Youth Federation and the All-China Federation of Taiwanese Compatriots.

Under the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (the Cross-Strait Act), citizens who work for such prohibited organizations can be fined NT$100,000 to NT$500,000 (US$3,077-US$15,389).

If the violator is a government official or a person working in defense, foreign affairs, intelligence, China affairs, or other relevant agencies whose work is related to matters of national security or other classified information, they can also face up to three years in prison, according to the Act.

The MAC said the revisions to the Act are aimed at preventing Beijing from intentionally exploiting the regulations.

It said it had originally established the guidelines in 2004 in line with authority granted to it under the Cross-Strait Act.

Over the following 20 years, however, the rules were unchanged, even as the Chinese government underwent significant structural changes, it said.

Following the announcement, the Straits Exchange Foundation — the Taiwanese counterpart to the ARATS — said it would make efforts to explain the changes to Taiwanese traveling frequently between Taiwan and China, to ensure they do not inadvertently run afoul of the law.

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