Taiwan’s Office of the President refuted on Thursday a report by the Hong Kong-based, pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao that Tsai Ing-wen had sent an “emissary” to meet secessionist activists from Hong Kong during their visit to Taipei earlier this week.
The newspaper alleged that Tsai sent one of her close aides to receive three members of Socialocalism, a Hong Kong independence advocacy group, and held a one-and-a-half-hour meeting near the Presidential Palace in which they “compared notes on independence campaigns.”
During the meeting, the three Hong Kong young activists reportedly sat upright and listened intently as Tsai’s aide passed on his knowledge and strategies about pushing for independence, according to the paper.
Ta Kung Pao’s reporter also noted that the aide went through a stack of documents, among which was a folder bearing the words “Taiwan Youth Anti-Communist Corps”.
Ta Kung Pao is widely viewed as a Chinese state paper based in Hong Kong whose stance represents the views of Beijing. It is known for its stringently pro-Beijing editorials and reports.
The paper noted in an op-ed that the exchange between Hong Kong activists and Tsai’s aide this week was the latest proof that secessionists in both places had been colluding with each other to plot trouble and split China.
However, the Taipei Times reported on Friday that the so-called “Tsai’s aide” was actually a reporter with Liberty Times who had no connections to the Tsai administration.
A spokesperson with the Presidential Office dismissed the Ta Kung Pao report as “pure fiction”, and condemned Ta Kung Pao reporters for stalking Hong Kong activists during their visit to Taipei. He revealed that Tsai had instructed the National Security Bureau to investigate the case and would consider deporting the Ta Kung Pao reporters involved.
Beijing has long been sensitive to exchanges and ties between political outfits in Hong Kong and Taiwan, frequently accusing them of “independence politicking” and of sowing discord on the mainland.
In late December, the Hong Kong government rejected the visa application of a Taiwanese musician who advocates for Taiwanese independence. The Taiwanese band announced later that it had been forced to cancel a show in Hong Kong after failing to get visas on time.
Meanwhile, the majority of young people in Hong Kong now support the idea of formal independence for neighboring Taiwan, even as their own government moves to ban a separatist political party on China-dictated “national security” grounds.
In a public opinion poll of more than 1,000 Hong Kong residents conducted by the University of Hong Kong in August 2018, 60% of respondents aged 18-29 said Taiwan should be allowed independent sovereign status as a country, a notion that is anathema to Beijing as well as to pro-Beijing newspapers in Hong Kong.
Respondents aged 40-49 were evenly divided on the issue.