Taiwan president meets HK dissident, promises support for protesters

In this handout picture taken and released on May 28, 2020 by the Taiwan Presidential office showing Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen speaks while visiting Lam Wing-kee (R), a bookseller from Hong Kong who in 2015 was detained in China for allegedly bringing banned books into the mainland, at ‘Causeway Bay Books’ bookstore in Taipei on May 28, 2020. (Photo by Handout / Taiwan Presidential Office / AFP) /  

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited a bookstore run by a prominent Hong Kong dissident Friday, repeating promises of humanitarian support and sanctuary for those fighting for democracy in the finance hub.

The meeting in Taipei with Lam Wing-kee comes a day after China’s rubber-stamp parliament approved plans to impose a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong that critics say will destroy the city’s autonomy.

“We thank Lam Wing-kee for your insistence on Hong Kong’s human rights, freedom and democracy. I welcome you on behalf of the Taiwanese people,” Tsai told the publisher.

Lam and four other Hong Kong booksellers who published salacious titles about China’s leadership vanished at the end of 2015, reappearing months later in police custody in mainland China.

He fled to self-ruled, democratic Taiwan last year after the Hong Kong government announced a now-scrapped proposal to allow extraditions to China, and re-opened his bookshop there last month.

Repeating a pledge that has angered Beijing, Tsai said her government was working on a “humanitarian assistance action plan” that will provide support for other Hong Kongers who flee to the island as Beijing cracks down on pro-democracy protests.

Last year over 5,000 Hong Kongers moved to Taiwan, up 41 percent from a year earlier, some of them fleeing prosecution over the protests or seeking a new life in one of Asia’s most progressive democracies.

China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

Beijing has ratcheted up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan since Tsai came to power in 2016 because she regards the island as a de facto independent state and not part of “one China”.