Hong Kong Cantopop star Denise Ho on Thursday made an impassioned plea to residents of democratic Taiwan to do everything they can to protect their democracy in the light of recent protests in Hong Kong.
Ho, who was in Taiwan to garner support for a global solidarity march for Hong Kong on Sept. 29, said the people of Hong Kong have been backed into a corner by a government that is increasingly eager to do Beijing's will.
She warned that the Chinese Communist Party is actively seeking to impose its values and influence around the world, including democratic countries such as Australia, the U.S., Canada, and Taiwan.
"We have seen various kinds of self-censorship from Taiwan to Australia, the United States, and Canada," Ho told a rally in Taiwan on Thursday.
"Chinese state power is now able to exert control over a variety of people, and some institutions’ freedom of speech has been restricted," she said.
Hong Kong may be on the front line of the resistance, but we are not alone," Ho said. "It's not just the people of Hong Kong who are in this situation."
She called on the voters of Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party nor formed part of the People's Republic of China, to use their vote to protect the island's democracy.
"Freedom and democracy are things that you don't feel are particularly precious when you still have them, but when you lose them like the people of Hong Kong have, you lose your freedom, then you will know that this is something you simply can't afford to lose," Ho said.
"So I call on all the people of Taiwan ... if you believe in freedom and human rights, to vote for the candidate who will best protect them," she said.
Political asylum proposed
Lin Yan-ting, chairman of the Taiwan Youth Association for Democracy, which is organizing the Sept. 29 demonstration, called on the Taiwanese authorities to set up a formal mechanism to offer political asylum to anti-extradition protesters fleeing Hong Kong.
He said a number of Hong Kong students had been studying in Taiwan when the anti-extradition movement began in early June, and had gone back home to join the protests and had since been unable to leave.
He warned that the Chinese Communist Party has scant respect for human rights.
"We have seen [the jailing of Taiwanese democracy activist] Lee Ming-cheh ... and recently [the detention of] Lee Meng-chu," Lin said.
"We are well aware that it's not just the basic human rights of Hong Kong people that the totalitarian regime is violating: it's also the rights of Taiwanese."
A spokeswoman for a Hong Kong students' youth group who gave only the single name Dora said that what began as a movement to oppose amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance allowing extradition to mainland China has developed into a broad-based push for fully democratic elections in Hong Kong.
She said last week's pledge by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to formally withdraw the amendments when the Legislative Council (LegCo) reopens in October won't be enough to end the movement.
"If the government had said it would withdraw the amendments back in June, it might have settled the matter," Dora said. "But now, withdrawal of the amendments is no longer the only demand being made by the public."
"If we do not completely reform [our political system] today, the freedoms once enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong will be consigned to history," she said. "Under the existing system, the future of Hong Kong and its people can only get bleaker."
China hits back
Meanwhile, a top Chinese official hit out at Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for its repeated support for the anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong.
"We once again solemnly warn the DPP authority to immediately take its hands off Hong Kong, and stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs, conniving with and sheltering violent radicals, and undermining relations across the Taiwan Strait," Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, told a news conference on Wednesday.
"The DPP authority has played an extremely disgraceful role in the recent situation in Hong Kong," he said, accusing the party of "fueling the flames" and colluding with separatists in Hong Kong in a bid to destabilize the city.
Reported by Chuang Kuang-cheng for RFA's Cantonese Service and by Hshia Hsiao-hwa for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.