by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Screenshot

CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS marked the third anniversary of the 2019 Hong Kong protests in Taipei yesterday, with a rally that took place in front of the Bank of China building in Xinyi. The rally began at 4:30 PM and lasted until around 6 PM. This was preceded by a flag-waving activity that took place in Xiangshan Park from 2:45 to 3:30 PM, that moved from the park, past Taipei 101, to in front of the Bank of China building, with some participants posing on the rock outcrop overlooking Taipei 101 to wave flags. 

A number of participants were individuals with families. Among the organizers were stalwarts of Taiwanese civil society as well as Hong Kong groups present in Taiwan. This included the Hong Kong Outlanders, the Taiwan Hong Kong Association, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, the Taiwan Labour Front, the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, Judicial Reform Foundation, Economic Democracy Union, Covenants Watch, New School for Democracy, and other organizations. Taipei city councilors Miao Poya and Froggy Chiu, as well as legislator Hung Sun-han of the DPP, were among those that spoke, the three being individuals that entered electoral politics after the 2014 Sunflower Movement. 

Photos of the protest from the Hong Kong Outlanders

The event began with the MC reviewing the major events that took place during the 2019 protests, as well as the Hong Kong government’s refusal to accommodate the demands of protestors. Subsequently, the protest anthem Glory to Hong Kong was sung.

The first two speakers were Causeway Bay bookseller Lam Wing-kee and formerly detained Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che. Lam is the last of the Causeway Bay booksellers to remain free. The four other men that ran Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong–a bookstore that sold books critical of the Chinese government–disappeared in late 2015, reappearing in China to make lurid confessions of past crimes that were likely extracted. After his kidnapping, Lam escaped Chinese custody and eventually traveled to Taiwan, where he reopened Causeway Bay Books. Lam spoke in Cantonese, which was followed by translation. 

On the other hand, Lee was recently released after five years of imprisonment by the Chinese government on charges of inciting subversion of the state, something thought to be the result of Lee discussing the experiences of Taiwan’s democratization with Chinese friends. Otherwise, the detention could have occurred due to Lee’s history of employment at the DPP or volunteer work at civil society groups such as Covenants Watch. Lee’s release from detention took place only after many years of advocacy from Taiwanese civil society groups and other Taiwanese remain imprisoned in China on political charges. 

A number of speakers brought up continued issues facing Hongkongers in Taiwan, including Wang Yi, the deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, and Hong Kong artist Tony Lau, who is currently living in exile in Taiwan. Wang discussed the risks of Hongkongers losing their asylum status in Hong Kong, with no formalized permanent residency procedure for refugees and asylum seekers, while Lau cited how some Hongkongers have moved to other countries or even returned to Hong Kong because of their inability to secure stable residency in Taiwan. 

DPP legislator Hung Sun-han drew links between the protest yesterday and the Tiananmen Square Massacre commemoration that took place the previous year, stating that half of the crowd last week consisted of Hongkongers, and that he saw many familiar faces. Froggy Chiu called for quicker action by the central government to assist Hongkongers, while also criticizing the Taipei city government’s city-based exchanges with Shanghai. Miao Poya echoed these comments, while also urging Hongkongers experiencing difficulties with employment, education, or medical aid, to reach out if assistance was needed. 

Livestream of the protest

Demonstrators also spray-painted a board with pictures of Hong Kong government officials such as outgoing Chief Executive Carrie Lam and incoming Chief Executive John Lee, in addition to Chinese president Xi Jinping. A Lennon Wall was also set up and a Chinese flag was burned. 

Despite the show of support for Hong Kong, at the same time, the Pillar of Shame replica that was unveiled last week in Liberty Plaza was defaced the same morning by a nineteen-year-old man surnamed Lee. Though Lee claimed apolitical motives, stating that he was stressed due to the effects of COVID-19, some are skeptical of these claims. There have been past incidents in which Hongkongers in Taiwan have been attacked, including the defacing of Aegis, a restaurant that seeks to assist Hongkongers, with chicken feces by vandals, and an attack on a Hong Kong exhibition in Tainan. 

In the meantime, it remains to be seen whether there will be any action by the Taiwanese government to step up support for Hongkongers. Though the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) has denied it is preventing Hongkongers from coming to Taiwan, there have been reports of inaction in efforts to assist Hongkongers seeking residency in Taiwan as of late. For its part, the MAC claims that it had found a large number of incidences of financial fraud among Hongkongers seeking residency in Taiwan, and this is its primary reason for blocking such applications.

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