BEIJING, June 21 — China on Friday threatened to impose the death penalty in extreme cases for “diehard” Taiwan independence separatists, even though Chinese courts have no jurisdiction on the democratically governed island.

China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has made no secret of its dislike of President Lai Ching-te who took office last month, saying he is a “separatist”, and has staged war games shortly after his inauguration.

The new guidelines say China’s courts, prosecutors, public and state security bodies should “severely punish Taiwan independence diehards for splitting the country and inciting secession crimes in accordance with the law, and resolutely defend national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity”, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

The guidelines are being issued in accordance with laws already on the books, including the 2005 anti-succession law, Xinhua said.

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That law gives China the legal basis for military action against Taiwan if it secedes or seems about to.

Sun Ping,an official from China’s Ministry of Public Security, told reporters in Beijing the maximum penalty for the “crime of secession” was the death penalty.

“The sharp sword of legal action will always hang high,” she said.

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There was no immediate response from Taiwan’s government. One official told Reuters they were still digesting the contents of the new guidelines.

Lai has repeatedly offered to hold talks with China but has been rebuffed. He says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.

China has taken legal measures against Taiwanese officials before, including imposing sanctions on Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s former de facto ambassador to the United States and now the island’s vice president.

Such punishments have little practical effect as Chinese courts do not have jurisdiction in Taiwan, whose government rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims. — Reuters