Taiwan has been dragged into the political turmoil sweeping Hong Kong.
When masked protesters thronged the city’s streets and threw bricks, bottles and even makeshift Molotovs onto police cordons throughout last weekend, Beijing and its local hatchet men also hurled accusations at the self-governed island, alleging its agents and funds aided and abetted the malcontents and radicals.
Beijing lost no time after the outbreak of Hong Kong’s mass demonstrations in early June, and assailed anti-China firebrands in the United States, the United Kingdom and their “lackeys” in Taiwan for stoking opposition to a proposed China extradition bill and further fanning the upheaval even after the bill was put on ice.
The broadside was soon echoed by Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing camp, with the city’s first post-colonial era leader Tung Chee-hwa, now a deputy chairman of China’s top political advisory body, putting the blame squarely on Taiwan when addressing a forum at the end of July.
Tung, whose tenure as Hong Kong’s chief executive was cut short by a similar mass rally against national security legislation in 2003, argued that the US and Taiwan had a direct hand in organizing and strategizing the protracted rallies in the city.
Last week, a senior official with the Chinese State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office also lambasted what he called Taiwan’s instigators, claiming they were in cahoots with troublemakers in Hong Kong as the city lurched from one chaotic protest to another.
Evidence cited by party cadres and pro-Beijing politicians in Hong Kong include Taiwan sheltering protesters who jumped bail and fled to the island, as well as frequent contacts and fund transfers between political outfits in both places, with the latest example being a proposed Taiwan visit this Tuesday by prominent activist Joshua Wong.
Other revelations include some student leaders flying to the island to attend seminars on democracy and human rights and who reportedly had talks with the island’s officials on asylum and non-refoulement protection at the onset of Hong Kong’s unrest in June.
Beijing is also fuming about Taiwanese and Hong Kong students on the island couriering supplies to the city, ranging from helmets, goggles and masks to suspicious ingredients for making smoke bombs.
“Instigators from both places compared notes on how to whip up sentiments and agitate the people,” read an op-ed by the Beijing mouthpiece Global Times.
Utterly saddened to see the images of #HongKong police firing rubber bullets at protesters.
To the people of Hong Kong: you may feel your demands for freedom seem to fall on deaf ears, please know that all like-minded friends in #Taiwan & around the world are standing with you. pic.twitter.com/22cCCFdnLr
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) June 12, 2019
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has not minced her words in backing Hong Kong protesters, in her numerous Tweets, Facebook posts as well as her high-profile speeches when transiting through New York in July. The chaos in Hong Kong and her tough stance have boosted her chances of re-election in January’s election.
Across the strait in Taiwan, the Executive Yuan’s Mainland Affairs Council hit back at Beijing’s claims on Saturday, reminding that those who authored the contentious extradition bill and the plan to bulldoze it through Hong Kong’s legislature to reflect on their wrongs.
The council, while insisting the island’s role in Hong Kong’s protests was nothing more than “moral support,” said the 23 million Taiwanese would never accept Beijing’s one country, two systems framework – “a hoax in place in Hong Kong” – being shoved down their throats.
Taiwanese, students missing
Meanwhile, Taiwan has lodged inquires with the mainland and Hong Kong governments about the whereabouts of several Taiwanese who went missing last month, after they entered the mainland city of Shenzhen from Hong Kong.
Those missing, including a government advisor, were believed to have taken part in processions in Hong Kong before crossing the border into mainland China.
Under an agreement between the two jurisdictions, Beijing should inform Taiwan promptly if a national is detained, but the latter failed to do so on numerous cases in the past.
Taiwan has already issued a safety warning to those heading for Hong Kong or having a layover in the city, with a special reminder of arbitrary detention and interrogation to those entering mainland China, as they may face stringent checks by Chinese agents of the photos on their phones and have their bags searched.
The island’s de facto representative office in Hong Kong also said it had been monitoring the situation to offer assistance if any Taiwanese were arrested as a result of the protests.
It has also been reported that at least two Hong Kong students enrolled in universities in Taiwan may not be able to return to the island for the new semester, as they have been arrested in their home city.