The Chinese government has warned Taiwan against offering protection to “rioters” from Hong Kong as international criticism grew of Beijing’s move to impose a controversial security law that bans separatism and foreign interference in Hong Kong.
In a statement late on Friday, China’s policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office denounced plans by Taipei to help those thinking of fleeing Hong Kong over Beijing’s tightening grip on the semi-autonomous city.
“Providing shelter for and taking onto the island the rioters and elements who bring chaos to Hong Kong will only continue to bring harm to Taiwan’s people,” it said.
The warning came a day after Taiwan, a self-governed island that has already welcomed scores of dissidents from Hong Kong, said it would set up a dedicated office to “practically handle humanitarian relief and care” for Hong Kong people.
The new office begins operations on the sensitive date of July 1, the day Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule from Britain in 1997 with the promise of continued, wide-ranging freedoms under China’s “one country, two systems” formula.
Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong say those freedoms are increasingly under threat as Chinese legislators draft a national security law banning what it termed secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in the global financial hub.
Details of the law are not known, but Beijing and Hong Kong officials say the legislation will only target a small number of “troublemakers” while leaving rights and freedoms intact.
The legislation followed months of protests in Hong Kong last year, with millions taking to the streets against a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed residents of the city to be extradited to mainland China for trial.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was one of the first world leaders to express support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong when demonstrations erupted in June last year. Tsai’s moves have angered China, as Beijing also claims Taiwan as its own, with officials threatening to bring the self-ruled island under Beijing’s control by force if necessary.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has previously offered the “one country, two systems” formula to Taiwan, but Tsai firmly rejected the proposal in a speech on May 20 after being sworn in for her second term in office.
In its Friday statement, the Chinese government said the plots of forces advocating independence for Hong Kong and Taiwan, and those seeking to damage “one country, two systems” will never succeed.
Separately on Friday, the European Parliament condemned the Hong Kong national security law, with legislators calling on the European Union to take China to the International Court of Justice if it implements the legislation.
The parliament “believes that the EU should use its economic leverage to challenge China’s crackdown on human rights by economic means,” said the resolution, which passed with 565 votes in favour to 35 against.
The parliament’s resolutions are non-binding but the political signals they provide can steer European governments’ policy.
You Wenze, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, expressed firm opposition to the EU resolution, which he said seriously distorted the facts and amounted to open interference in Hong Kong affairs, state-run news agency Xinhua reported on Saturday.
The Chinese parliament’s top decision-making body had been reviewing a draft of the security legislation for Hong Kong since Thursday. An initial Xinhua report on the Standing Committee meeting said it ended on Saturday morning but made no mention of Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, the United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet also expressed concern over Beijing’s moves on Friday, saying that any laws imposed on Hong Kong “must fully comply with China’s human rights obligations” and international treaties protecting civil and political freedoms.
Hours later, China’s mission to the UN in Geneva said Bachelet’s remarks were “improper” and “grossly” interfered in its sovereignty and internal affairs.