Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday urged the Hong Kong government to bring the city “back from the brink”, after likening the chaotic clashes on a university campus to the “white terror” that once gripped the self-ruled island.
After a long night in which Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) became a battlefield of tear gas, rubber bullets and petrol bombs, Tsai criticised the city’s authorities for ignoring the democratic demands of the protesters and caring more about saving face after more than five months of anti-government demonstrations.
“With profound grief, I want to urge Hong Kong’s government to rein things in from the brink, since the people’s aspirations should not be responded to with violence, and you should not sacrifice the blood of Hong Kong’s youth for the sake of decorating Beijing’s face,” she wrote on Facebook.
“Police exist to protect the people and the government exists to serve the people. Once the police stop protecting the people and the government stops thinking for the people, this kind of government will inevitably lose the trust of the people.”
Hong Kong police said they entered CUHK to make arrests, but students resisting their entry said the campus had to be guarded. In the hours-long confrontation that followed, university president Rocky Tuan Sung-chi was tear gassed as he sought to mediate between the two sides.
Amid the growing violence, relations between Beijing and Taipei have become a major campaign issue as Taiwan prepares for a presidential election in January. Voters on the island have increasingly rejected the “one country, two systems” political framework that gives Hong Kong a degree of autonomy from mainland China and which Beijing wants to apply in Taiwan.
Both of Taiwan’s main political parties – Tsai’s independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the mainland-friendly Kuomintang – have rejected one country, two systems.
Tsai compared the violence at CUHK to the 38 years of martial law that gripped Taiwan after the violent suppression of anti-government protests in which thousands were killed.
“During the ‘white terror’ period, Taiwan also had police entering university campuses, arresting students and suppressing freedoms, and we are not willing to see the same mistake made from this painful memory,” she said on Facebook.
“Taiwan walked out of the darkness with great difficulty, but now Hong Kong has stepped inside.”
Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, accused the DPP of using the situation in Hong Kong for political gain.
“We urge them to carefully read the full statements from the Hong Kong government and police, to open their eyes to look at the images of rioters in the streets burning ordinary citizens, and not to continue reversing black and white for political gain and misleading the public,” he said on Wednesday just hours before Tsai posted her Facebook comments.
He was referring to a gruesome incident in which a man was set on fire after a confrontation with black-clad protesters.
“What they should do is to immediately take back the black hands they have outstretched to Hong Kong,” Ma said.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Scores of Chinese students flee Hong Kong over fears they will be attacked as anti-mainland sentiment sweeps through protesters in city
- Hong Kong protests: pitched battles on campuses as police say city verging on ‘brink of total breakdown’
- Shenzhen and Hong Kong-based groups help mainland Chinese students flee city
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