The Taiwanese government denounced Hong Kong on Monday, following mounting pressure from officials to accept the terms of Beijing’s “one-China” claim to Taiwan. Taiwan responded by ordering its staff at the representative office to immediately leave the Chinese-controlled city after the government continued to demand support for a document that would validate China’s territorial claims to the island. This report comes only one month after Hong Kong suspended operations at its Taiwan Economic, Trade, and Cultural office. It also follows accusations of Taipei interference in domestic affairs, such as supporting citizens involved in the pro-democracy movements that erupted in 2019.
Deputy Secretary-General of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party Lin Fei-fan publicly criticized Hong Kong’s government on Facebook following the order. He wrote that “[T]his is because the Chinese Communist Party and the Hong Kong government continue to force our personnel stationed in Hong Kong to sign a ‘one China commitment letter’ to recognize one-China,” adding that “[A]s a political prerequisite for the visa renewal, we will of course not accept it!” Following the government request, Taiwan determined they could no longer keep their officials at the economic hub, with work visas about to expire. According to Reuters, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council Head Tai-san told journalists “[T]heir purpose obviously was to diminish our national dignity and lodges stern condemnation and a warning to the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong government.”
Taiwan has been a highly contested area for decades. These present challenges primarily resulted from the 1992 Consensus which was reached between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Kuomintang Party that controlled Taiwan. The agreement set the stage for what is recognized as the “one country two systems” model, which granted Taiwan autonomy if they agreed to accept unifying in the future. Yet the two parties never fully agreed on the conditions of the consensus, or what the legal status of the island would be. China contends that it will eventually accept a peaceful reunification with the mainland, while Taiwanese political parties have continued to advocate for eventual independence from China. Leaders including sitting President Tsai Ing-wen have argued that democratization and economic growth, along with a successful military and government, has led Taiwan to have a separate identity that is incompatible with the CCP. This has not come without risk, however, as President Xi Jinping threatened the use of force to reclaim the island, often referring to the government’s actions as “separatist,” as reported by The New York Times.
The events that transpired in Hong Kong in 2019 have served as an example to Taiwan of what Chinese subjugation could indicate. The national security law, commonly referred to as the extradition bill, virtually stripped most rights and freedoms from Hong Kong citizens to speak against the CCP. It instituted drastic punishments for protesters advocating for secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign powers. Pro-democracy activists are now deprived of freedom of speech and democratic rights that were once granted to them. They are unable to run for office because this overhaul meant anyone campaigning had to first be screened and approved by Beijing. After implementation of the law, Taiwan openly welcomed Hong Kong’s residents to live on the democratic island, which enraged leaders in both China and Hong Kong.
For decades, China has sought a peaceful reunification with Taiwan through economic and social endeavors. However, tensions have exacerbated in the Pacific because of Beijing’s quest for an expansion of power and increased military presence, which is a constant threat to preserving the free and open elements in the region. Additionally, the CCP’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims and human rights abuses are unappealing to younger generations in Taiwan that have embraced Taiwan’s story of democratic success. Hong Kong has only become another source of tension between China and Taiwan, with the relationship continuing to deteriorate. Following the expelling of officials, Hong Kong’s government claimed in a statement to Reuters that Taiwan was “confusing right and wrong.” The officials were ordered to leave the city by 21 June.