Taiwan has warned its citizens they could be at risk if they visited Hong Kong and President Tsai Ing-wen expressed disappointment after China’s parliament passed controversial national security legislation that critics fear will severely curtail freedoms in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
The new law would “severely impact” freedom, democracy and human rights in Hong Kong, Taiwan’s cabinet said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the democratic island would continue to offer help to Hong Kong people.
“The government strongly condemns (the law) and reiterates its support for the people of Hong Kong as they strive for democracy and freedom,” cabinet spokesman Evian Ting said.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” in Hong Kong and will not affect rights and freedoms.
The security legislation sets the stage for the most radical changes to the former British colony since it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Nevertheless, Ting warned the Taiwanese people of “possible risks” when visiting Hong Kong in light of the legislation. He did not elaborate.
Months of anti-government, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year won widespread sympathy in Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
The island has welcomed people from Hong Kong who have moved there and is implementing measures to help the new arrivals.
President Tsai Ing-wen said she was “very disappointed” by China’s imposition of the law.
“We hope Hong Kong people continue to adhere to the freedom, democracy and human rights that they cherish,” she told reporters.
Taiwan is set to launch on Wednesday a dedicated office to help those thinking of fleeing Hong Kong. July 1 is also the day the territory was returned to Chinese rule from Britain with the promise of wide-ranging freedoms under a “one country, two systems” framework.
Tsai said the legislation proved that the formula “was not feasible” and that Taiwan would provide “concrete” humanitarian assistance to migrants from Hong Kong.
Beijing denies stifling Hong Kong’s freedoms and has condemned Tsai’s offer.