A top official in Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has warned the island’s 23 million residents to believe carefully before traveling to Hong Kong or China in the wake of Hong Kong’s draconian national security law, which targets acts or speech seen as subversive by China all over the world, as the U.S. upgrades its military commitment to the island’s defense.
DPP deputy leader Lin Fei-fan, himself a former leader of the 2014 student-led Sunflower movement that occupied Taiwan’s parliament in protest at a trade handle China, said the law does not just make life riskier for Hongkongers.
“I hope Taiwanese people traveling to Hong Kong will be mindful of their safety, because this is a law that affects not only Hong Kongers, but people in Taiwan and in countries around the world,” Lin told a party meeting.
The national security law, which took effect in Hong Kong on June 30, criminalizes speech and actions deemed subversive or secessionist, along with actions, speech and help for people “colluding with foreign countries” or planning and committing acts of “terror.”
Its definitions are broad and are already being used to a target people carrying protest banners, as well as actions that may be disruptive or destructive in nature, but which might be regarded as offenses against property or public order in other non-authoritarian jurisdictions.
There are provisions to ensure that the “wrong” opinions are no more heard in the city’s education system, nor in its once freewheeling media.
The law applies to anybody in the world, also to acts and speech that take place anywhere in the world, if they’re deemed injurious to China or Hong Kong’s status as part of China.
Critics of China at ‘high risk’
There are fears it could be used to prosecute whoever has spoken in support of Taiwan independence, which is a main-stream political opinion on the democratic island, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, nor formed part of the 70-year-old People’s Republic of China.
Lin’s warning echoed earlier comments by Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) spokesman Chiu Chui-cheng on Wednesday: “If our people have been critical of the Chinese Communist Party, or show support for the anti-extradition movement [in Hong Kong], then they are at high-risk.”
“We advise that people avoid travel to Hong Kong, Macau or mainland China unless absolutely necessary,” Chiu said.
As thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong in defiance of a protest ban on Wednesday, Taiwan said its Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office was now open for business to simply help Hongkongers fleeing the city to examine, work, invest or use up residence in Taiwan.
Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen said she expected the law to “fundamentally affect” the rule of law and human rights in Hong Kong, and said her party would continue to assist Hongkongers.
Taiwan announced on Friday it would create a representative office in the U.S. territory Guam, to reflect a closer alliance with the U.S. in the face of growing Chinese aggression close to its territory.
The island’s ministry of foreign affairs said it had taken the decision to reflect the growing partnership between Taiwan and the U.S. and the strategic importance of the Pacific region to Taiwan. It had earlier in the day been power down due to budget cuts.
“Re-establishing TECO in Guam will facilitate economic and trade cooperation and exchanges between Taiwan and the greater Western Pacific region, deepen Taiwan’s relations having its Pacific allies, and increase multilateral exchanges,” the ministry said in a press release.
Taiwan Defense Act
The announcement came after U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher introduced the House version of the Taiwan Defense Act (TDA) on Wednesday, to ensure the U.S. continues to meet its obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s aggressive military build-up, based on an official news release.
The TRA was passed in 1979 following the U.S. cut ties with the 1911 Republic of China on Taiwan to build ties with China, which insists that its diplomatic partners not recognize Taipei.
The law commits Washington to providing adequate defense weapons and services to Taiwan to enable it to defend it self.
“[On June 30], we saw the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) end one country, two systems. No longer can anyone harbor the illusion that the CCP would unify peacefully with Taiwan,” Gallagher said in a statement, in a mention of the the national security law for Hong Kong.
“Taiwan’s liberty is really a vital national security interest of the United States, and the Taiwan Defense Act ensures our military has the capabilities it needs to block CCP aggression,” Gallagher said.
The bill is an make an effort to prevent Beijing from annexing Taiwan before the U.S. can mount a military response. Chinese President Xi Jinping has refused to exclude such a course of action, and says “unification” with Taiwan can be an inevitability.
Gallagher’s introduction of the bill came as China launched a five-day naval exercise near the contested Paracel Islands in the South China Sea to check its capability to seize islands.
Chinese military aircraft and ships have passed near to Taiwan’s airspace and waters on numerous occasions since Tsai took office in 2016.
Reported by Chung Kuang-cheng for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Hwang Chun-mei for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.