A Taiwanese flag is seen inside a shopping mall in Hong Kong as demonstrators gather during last year’s anti-China extradition bill protests. Photo: Facebook

Beijing’s looming national security law for Hong Kong appears to have failed to demoralize or deter those residents in the city who are determined to keep up their fight.

Flash mob protests flared again across Hong Kong’s central business district during the evening rush hours on Tuesday and the lunch break on Wednesday when thousands thronged streets.

The cat-and-mouse game with riot police came as people marked the first anniversary of the city’s anti-China extradition bill protests.

Massive rallies since June 2019 that sometimes brought out close to one million Hongkongers according to some estimates and widespread violence that roiled the Asian financial hub for months last year forced the city’s government to suspend and eventually drop its bid to enact a new extradition law, which would have otherwise enabled the surrender of local fugitives and wanted persons to jurisdictions like mainland China.

Now, one year since the first protest took place, the Stars and Stripes and the Taiwanese flags are again seen fluttering along with flags and banners bearing pro-independence slogans as black-clad separatists make the rounds in Central and Admiralty districts, a sight that must be galling to Beijing.

Pro-Beijing and pro-Taiwan demonstrators vie for attention during a rally in Hong Kong. Photo: Central News Agency, Taiwan

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, is crafting the specifics of the new law for the former British colony to criminalize secession, subversion and foreign meddling.

Hong Kong’s Security Minister John Lee has also set out what could be the real target of the legislation to be applied to the city this summer.

In an interview with local papers on Tuesday, Lee, the most senior official overseeing the city’s police force and other disciplined services, again accused “external forces,” in particular Taiwan, of fomenting discontent, harboring bail jumpers and instigating further turmoil in his city.

Lee alleged that the island had assumed a key role throughout Hong Kong’s fast-evolving protests. These erupted against a now-scrapped China extradition bill when a massive rally was held across several districts on June 9, 2019, to push back against the bill.

As many as one million Hongkongers turned out that day, according to organizers. Lee said that the subsequent unrest, seething for several months since then, had long morphed into an open revolt against Beijing’s authority and sovereignty over the territory.

The new legislation was to outlaw acts deemed detrimental to national security, he said.

Lee said instigators from Taiwan had carried out “demagoguery” to spread disinformation among Hong Kong youngsters and aided and abetted them as they committed crimes such as rioting, vandalism and arson.

“And of course, the whole protests happened during the Taiwan presidential election. So there is interference by external forces during the hostile months and I think we can see that,” Lee was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying.

Indeed, such rhetoric about malign foreign forces behind the city’s drawn-out demonstrations is nothing new.

Hong Kong’s former top leader Leung Chun-ying, now a deputy chair of China’s top political advisory body the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, never minces his words when blaming the US and Taiwan for the tumult engulfing the city.

Yet when challenged by Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council to produce proof to substantiate his claims, Leung merely agreed to reveal evidence “at an appropriate time,” a pledge he had never redeemed before he stepped down in 2017.

This time around, the city’s security chief has also stopped short of giving any proof to back up the renewed allegations against Taiwan, adding only that “large-scale protests alway need resources, money, planning and supplies for participants.”

Still, Lee’s latest remarks may indicate that Beijing’s new security law for Hong Kong is intended to cleanse the territory of foreign operatives.

And primed with related intelligence – some possibly from mainland security agencies – Lee and the city’s police force may have been assigned a crucial task to execute the law and come down hard on external intervention.

Other pro-Beijing lawmakers also suspect that Taiwan has long been bankrolling Hong Kong protesters, on top of the steady flow of goggles, helmets and other protective gear from the island since the beginning of the city’s turmoil.

Taiwan’s representative office in Hong Kong did not respond to inquiries about what the upcoming security law will mean for the island’s presence in the city as well as the implications for the many Taiwanese expats, businessmen and diplomats living in Hong Kong.

A few incumbent and former Hong Kong district councilors who either have the right of abode in Taiwan or maintain close contacts with the self-ruled island also said they would not comment on the draft law as all the details were yet to be set out, when they were asked about Beijing’s new legislation.

Meanwhile, Beijing cadres in charge of Hong Kong affairs and the city’s pro-Beijing newspapers have again warned of local protestors and separatists being “in bed with” Taiwan’s independence-tilting politicians.

Hong Kong’s staunchly nationalist Ta Kung Pao newspaper, controlled by Beijing’s liaison office in the city, has gone so far as to suggest that the new law would home in on people like Jimmy Lai and Joshua Wong.

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong and incumbent and former pro-democracy lawmakers Eddie Chu and Lester Shum usually fly to Taiwan to muster support. Photo: CNA

Hong Kong media mogul Lai, a thorn in Beijing’s side, also runs a sizable publishing business in Taiwan with his Apple Daily Taiwan being among the island’s most-read anti-China broadsheets.

Wong, the face of the Hong Kong youth refusing to capitulate to Beijing, often shuttles between his city and Taiwan to meet key Taiwanese politicians, including the chair of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, to compare notes on opposing Beijing.

In a separate development, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council is set to announce a revamped action plan to render assistance to Hongkongers fleeing persecution or seeking to take up residence on the island.

The plan, pending ratification by the Executive Yuan, is said to be part of a long-term arrangement for Hongkongers, adopted in light of the city’s changing situation, to offer help ranging from entry permission and settlement to employment for those fearing purges by Beijing and the Hong Kong government, according to Taiwanese papers.

Asked if Taiwan will follow the US and revoke its preferential policies for Hong Kong, the Mainland Affairs Council noted it would make an assessment after Beijing’s new law takes effect in the city.

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