Hong Kong toes party line on Taiwan as Chinese diplomat threatens ‘re-education’

Senior officials in Hong Kong’s new administration have been lining up to show their loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by condemning U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, as U.K. lawmakers were reportedly planning their own Taiwan trip.

“The Hong Kong … government has unwavering determination in and a clear stance against any advocacy of ‘Taiwan independence’, and fully supports the central government’s resolute determination in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Hong Kong chief executive John Lee said in a statement on the government’s website.

He said Pelosi’s visit had gambled with the well-being of Taiwan’s 23 million nationals, calling it “extremely selfish.”

A government spokesman echoed the phrasing used by Chinese officials all over the world.

“Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan constitutes gross interference in China’s internal affairs, seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity [and] greatly threatens the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” the spokesman said.

The statements were rapidly followed by similar statements from the city’s justice secretary Paul Lam, who said it was the “sacred duty” of all Chinese nationals to ensure Taiwan — which has never been ruled by the CCP nor formed part of the People’s Republic of China — to “unify” with China.

Lee’s second-in-command Chan Kwok-ki called Pelosi’s visit “wanton,” and vowed to lead the administration “to fully support and facilitate the country in safeguarding its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely handle Taiwan-related matters.”

Chiang Min-yen, a Taiwanese citizen who was a student in Hong Kong during the 2014 Umbrella movement, said the statements from the government marked a new low in relations between Hong Kong and Taiwan, which has been a vocal critic on an ongoing crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong under the national security law.

“The Hong Kong government has to go a step further and make a positive effort [through these statements] to show loyalty to Beijing,” Chiang told RFA. “This is actually a very dangerous sign, because it shows that Xi Jinping’s wolf warrior diplomacy directly affects and extends to Hong Kong’s handling of foreign relations, including those with Taiwan.”

“[This] will actually damage Hong Kong’s reputation as an international financial center … something that Beijing is very afraid of.”

Former Uyghur student leader Wuer Kaixi, shown in this May 2019 photos, said "China today is not only not worried about going against the values shared by the rest of the world, but is proud of it and normalizes bullying, which is incredible." Credit: AP
Former Uyghur student leader Wuer Kaixi, shown in this May 2019 photos, said “China today is not only not worried about going against the values shared by the rest of the world, but is proud of it and normalizes bullying, which is incredible.” Credit: AP

Global offensive

Chinese officials and pro-CCP commentators have launched a global media offensive around Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, claiming that the island is an “inseparable” part of Chinese territory.

The Chinese ambassador to France, Liu Shaye, warned that the CCP may need to impose “re-education” on the island following “unification,” suggesting that China is already planning to export its repressive form of ideological brainwashing beyond its borders.

In an interview with France’s BFM TV, Lu blamed the lack of receptiveness to China’s insistence on “unification” among Taiwan’s 23 million people on “extreme propaganda” by its ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Kazakh citizen journalist Mirbek Serambek, who is currently in exile in France, told RFA that “re-education” likely refers to the mass internment camps used to “re-educate” Uyghurs in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. That policy is part of a CCP assimilation program in Xinjiang that has been branded genocide by some Western governments and legal experts.

“It shows that the Chinese government’s re-education policy is unlikely to change for the time being, and that it was likely on strict orders from [CCP leader] Xi Jinping,” he said. “Xi Jinping will take a more radical approach following the Pelosi incident, both internally and externally.”

“The Chinese government may set up re-education centers in or near Hong Kong over the next few years,” Serambek said. “It will keep on oppressing other groups if Western countries don’t step up sanctions.”

Wuer Kaixi, the Uyghur former student leader of the 1989 pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, said Liu is in the mold of a “wolf warrior” diplomat, and is reacting against Washington’s new-found determination not to appease China over Taiwan.

“China today is not only not worried about going against the values shared by the rest of the world, but is proud of it and normalizes bullying, which is incredible,” Wuer told RFA. “It’s gotten to the point where … one of its ambassadors has spoken with pride of this domineering approach.”

Zheng Zeguang, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, warned Britain  not to "play with fire" with the U.S. amid reports British MPs plan to visit Taiwan, adding that "those who play with fire will set themselves on fire," in file photo. Credit: Screengrab from the official website of the Chinese Embassy in the UK
Zheng Zeguang, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, warned Britain not to “play with fire” with the U.S. amid reports British MPs plan to visit Taiwan, adding that “those who play with fire will set themselves on fire,” in file photo. Credit: Screengrab from the official website of the Chinese Embassy in the UK

UK MPs to visit Taiwan

An employee who answered the phone at the Chinese embassy in France declined to comment on Thursday.

“I can’t answer you because I can’t get a hold of my superiors; you need to go through the proper channels,” the employee said.

The embassy press office asked for questions to be emailed, but no reply had been received by the time of writing.

Meanwhile, the Chinese ambassador to the U.K. warned members of parliament not to visit Taiwan, following a media report that there are plans in the pipeline for such a trip.

“We call on the U.K. side to abide by its own commitments and not to underestimate the extreme sensitivity of the Taiwan issue or follow in the U.S.’ footsteps and play with fire,” Zheng Zeguang told reporters.

“Remember: those who play with fire get burnt,” he said.

The Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee had originally planned to visit Taiwan in February this year, but the trip was postponed because a member of the delegation tested positive for COVID-19.

In a report published on Aug. 3, Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) quoted sources as saying that the delegation is expected to travel this fall

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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