A meeting between Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) and the head of China’s liaison office in Hong Kong has incurred criticism from President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who said it could give the impression that Beijing’s “one country, two systems” model might be applicable to Taiwan. Han was also criticized by several pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers, who slammed what they called an endorsement of China’s “distorted implementation” of the framework.
Han is leading a 28-member delegation on a visit to Hong Kong, Macau and the Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Xiamen to promote trade before returning to Kaohsiung on Thursday next week.
On Friday, he met with Chinese Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Director Wang Zhimin (王志民). The meeting was not included in the itinerary published by Han’s office prior to the trip.
Tsai, who was in Palau on a state visit to three Pacific allies, yesterday said that the office is a key organization responsible for China’s implementation of the “one country, two systems” framework in Hong Kong.
Arranging a visit by Han to the office might have been designed to create an atmosphere of “one country, two systems,” she said.
“I am not sure if Mayor Han was aware of this [possibility],” Tsai said.
Shortly after news emerged of the meeting on Friday, Hong Kong lawmakers Eddie Chu (朱凱廸), Au Nok Hin (區諾軒), Leung Yiu-chung (梁耀忠) and Fernando Cheung (張超雄) issued a statement denouncing Han’s visit.
Han has repeatedly claimed that the purpose of his visit to Hong Kong is only to promote Kaohsiung’s products, a reason he has used to refuse any politically related questions from the media, they said.
“According to the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and the Hong Kong Basic Law, trade between Kaohsiung and Hong Kong definitely falls within the mandate of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and has nothing to do with the liaison office,” the statement said.
The office has served as the de facto “emperor” behind the Hong Kong government, serving as a channel for Beijing to maintain a high level of control over the territory, the lawmakers said, adding that it is responsible for the “distorted implementation” of the formula in Hong Kong over the past few years.
Out of respect for Hong Kong’s autonomy, no foreign dignitaries had visited the head of the office after meeting with the territory’s chief executive, they said.
“Han breaking the customary rule is clearly the result of Beijing’s carefully calculated arrangement. In the eyes of Hong Kongers, the meeting constitutes an endorsement of the distorted ‘one country, two systems’ framework and made [Han] an accessory to a tyrant’s crimes,” the statement said.
Hong Kong pro-democracy party Demosisto Secretary-General Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) issued an open letter to Han, urging him to take the territory’s experience with the “one country, two systems” framework as a warning and to make an effort to protect the freedom and rights of the people of Kaohsiung and Taiwan.
Demosisto member Nathan Law (羅冠聰), who was a leading activist in the “Umbrella movement,” called Han’s meeting with Wang a “devil’s deal,” saying that Taiwan might face a fate similar to Hong Kong’s if it establishes links with the office.
It would be far harder for Taiwan’s democratic system to withstand the infiltration of China’s “sharp power” if the office is able to find a Taiwanese proxy to help it blaze a political and economic trail, he said.
Asked about concerns caused by his meeting with Wang, Han yesterday said that there was nothing to worry about, as the main purpose of his trip is to sell Kaohsiung’s agricultural products.
Kaohsiung must open its mind and seize every possible business opportunity, he added.
Additional reporting by Su Yung-yao and Ko Yu-hao
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