Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu has again promised help Hongkongers “displaced from the territory” should Beijing use a heavy hand to quell protests in the former British territory.
Wu’s remarks were seen as Taipei’s official stance following reports that hundreds of protesters already charged with rioting, illegal assembly or assaulting police have jumped bail and made a beeline for the self-ruled island.
They hope to take advantage of the island’s strong pro-Hong Kong ethos as well as the absence of any formal rendition deals between the two jurisdictions.
With some Hongkongers coming to the island suspected of being helped by human smuggling syndicates, the Tsai Ing-wen administration has to tread carefully between sheltering those in fear of being purged or facing an unfair trial and enforcing the island’s laws.
Wu told the Associated Press that existing legislation would be sufficient to deal with a “relatively small number” of Hongkongers seeking to reside in Taiwan.
However, he stressed that any move by Beijing that would further deteriorate the situation in Hong Kong, like calling in the People’s Liberation Army, would prompt Taiwan to take a more proactive approach to help those entering the island.
“When that happens, Taiwan is going to work with the international community to provide necessary assistance to those who are displaced by the violence there,” he said.
“The people here understand that how the Chinese government treats Hong Kong is going to be the future way of them treating Taiwan, and what turned out in Hong Kong [with the city’s ‘one country, two systems’ framework also intended for Taiwan] is not very appealing to the Taiwanese people.”
Taiwanese papers have previously speculated that the Tsai administration could announce an executive order to grant all Hongkongers living or studying on the island the right of abode if there was a military crackdown in Hong Kong.
Yet the likeliness of such a drastic move is low now that the temperature in Hong Kong is cooling down with fewer, less violent protests in recent weeks.
Taiwan’s leader Tsai has on multiple occasions dismissed the “one country, two systems” model as a failed experiment pushing Hong Kong to “the brink of disorder.”
Tsai is seeking re-election in January’s presidential race against a rival fielded by the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang, and the turmoil in Hong Kong has added to her chance of winning.
A second term for Tsai will see a continuation of Taiwan’s tough stance against its much larger neighbor.
Other than the US and UK, Beijing has singled out Taiwan as a key culprit for fanning the chaos in Hong Kong, as Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party has maintained close contacts with the city’s pro-democracy activists including Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Denise Ho etc, whose trips to the island to attend seminars and muster support for Hong Kong have long riled Beijing.
But Wu stressed that Taiwan had high stakes in the developments in Hong Kong, as sitting on the edges of a more aggressive China, the two places’ future would be closely interwound.
“If President Tsai is re-elected, we’ll continue to … maintain the ‘status quo’ across the Taiwan Strait … We want to make sure that the Chinese have no excuse in launching a war against us,” said Wu.
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