Taiwan says it ‘isn’t giving up on Hong Kong’ as Tsai Ing-wen considers suspending special status

Lawrence Chung

Taiwan’s mainland policymaker on Monday clarified that the self-ruled island would continue to support Hong Kong, after President Tsai Ing-wen said its special status could be revoked if Beijing passed a controversial national security law for the city.

Beijing last week unveiled a resolution on the legislation at its annual parliamentary session after months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, a move that has been widely condemned overseas and in the city, where it has sparked more demonstrations.

Tsai said in a Facebook post on Sunday that she might consider invoking Article 60 of the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macau Affairs by suspending the “application of all or part of the provisions of the act” if the National People’s Congress bypassed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to approve the security law.

That would mean an end to the preferential treatment given to people from Hong Kong and Macau, including to visit and invest in the self-ruled island.

Tsai said Beijing’s move would break its promise for Hong Kong to remain unchanged for 50 years after it was handed over to China, and for the city to be run with a high degree of autonomy.

In a statement on Monday, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council responded to criticism from opposition lawmakers that Tsai planned to “dump” Hong Kong people after using them to win January’s presidential election.

“What the president said in her Facebook post did not mean ‘giving up on Hong Kong’, rather she meant to let Beijing know there would be serious consequences if the Chinese Communist Party National People’s Congress passes a Hong Kong version of the [mainland] national security law,” the statement said.

It said that the island’s authorities would continue to offer necessary assistance for Hong Kong people in view of the latest developments in the city.

Tsai’s strong support for the mass protests in Hong Kong last year – triggered by a now-shelved extradition bill – helped win the backing of many young voters in the Taiwan election in early January.

The youth vote was seen as an essential part of her turnaround in the campaign – she had been expected to lose the race to mainland-friendly Kuomintang candidate Han Kuo-yu but ended up being re-elected for a second term in a landslide.

In her Facebook post, Tsai, from the Democratic Progressive Party, said if the national security law was implemented, it would seriously erode Hong Kong’s freedoms and judicial independence.

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Opposition lawmakers said what Tsai was suggesting – suspending the city’s special status – was unthinkable as it would essentially mean shutting the door to Hong Kong people doing business, studying or fleeing to Taiwan to avoid penalties for their protest actions in the city.

KMT legislator Charles Chen I-hsin said he and others on Monday proposed that the legislature revise the act to allow Hong Kong people to seek refuge in Taiwan in the absence of a formal political asylum law.

In response, the Mainland Affairs Council said Tsai had made clear that the government would continue to help Hong Kong people in need, and that would continue in the future.

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