The draconian security law for Hong Kong implemented by Beijing could put Taiwan’s 23 million residents at risk of arrest and prosecution when they travel to China or Hong Kong, warned a top official in Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The security law criminalises speech and actions deemed subversive or secessionist, as well as actions, speech and help for people “colluding with foreign countries” or planning and committing acts of “terror.”
“I hope Taiwanese people traveling to Hong Kong will be mindful of their safety, because this is a law that affects not only Hongkongers, but people in Taiwan and in countries around the world,” DPP deputy leader Lin Fei-fan told a party meeting.
The law’s definitions are broad and are already being used to 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 longer heard in the city’s education system, nor in its once freewheeling media.
The law applies to anyone in the world, and to acts and speech that take place anywhere in the world, if they are deemed injurious to China or Hong Kong’s status as part of China.
There are fears it could be used to prosecute anyone who has spoken in support of Taiwan independence, which is a mainstream 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 have shown support for the anti-extradition movement [in Hong Kong], then they are at high risk.”
“We recommend 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 help Hongkongers fleeing the city to study, work, invest or take 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 set up a representative office in the US territory Guam, to reflect a closer alliance with the US in the face of growing Chinese aggression in and around its territory.
The island’s ministry of foreign affairs said it had taken the decision to reflect the growing partnership between Taiwan and the US and the strategic importance of the Pacific region to Taiwan. It had earlier been shut 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 with its Pacific allies, and increase multilateral exchanges,” the ministry said in a press release.
The announcement came after US Representative Mike Gallagher introduced the House version of the Taiwan Defense Act (TDA) on Wednesday, to ensure the US continues to meet its obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s aggressive military build-up, according to an official news release.
The TRA was passed in 1979 after the US 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 sufficient defense weapons and services to Taiwan to enable it to defend itself.
The bill is an attempt to prevent Beijing from annexing Taiwan before the US can mount a military response. Chinese President Xi Jinping has refused to rule out such a course of action, and says “unification” with Taiwan is 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 test its ability to seize islands.
Chinese military aircraft and ships have also passed close to Taiwan’s airspace and waters on numerous occasions since Tsai took office in 2016. (Source: RFA)