China slams Taiwan over asylum offer to protesters

Protesters with Taiwan flags during a demonstration in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019.
Protesters with Taiwan flags during a demonstration in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG • China lashed out at Taiwan yesterday over its offer of political asylum to participants in Hong Kong's pro-democracy protest movement, a day after hundreds of thousands of people marched peacefully in the latest massive demonstration in the Chinese territory.

The government of Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China considers its own territory, strongly supports the protests, and Hong Kong students in Taiwan held events at the weekend showing their backing.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen made the asylum offer last month, though it is not clear if requests have been received.

Taiwan lacks a formal legal mechanism for assessing and granting asylum requests, although it has granted residency to several vocal opponents of the Chinese government.

Yesterday, Mr Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Chinese Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office, said Taiwan's offer would "cover up the crimes of a small group of violent militants" and encourage their "audacity in harming Hong Kong and turn Taiwan into a heaven for ducking the law".

He demanded that Taiwan's government "cease undermining the rule of law" in Hong Kong, cease interfering in its affairs and not "condone criminals".

Separately, the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa warned Canada on Sunday to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs, a day after the country issued a joint statement with the European Union in defence of the "fundamental right of assembly" of Hong Kong citizens.

On the eve of Sunday's rally, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: "Fundamental freedoms, including the right of peaceful assembly... must continue to be upheld."

The Chinese Embassy said in a statement on its website that Canada should "immediately stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2019, with the headline 'China slams Taiwan over asylum offer to protesters'. Print Edition | Subscribe