Taiwan fears becoming “the next Hong Kong”

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TAIPEI | China is seeking to make the democratic territory that is Taiwan “the next Hong Kong,” Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu accused Tuesday after his meeting with a visiting senior American official.

In Hong Kong, the crackdown on dissent has intensified since Beijing’s draconian national security law came into effect in late June.

Many pro-democracy activists have been arrested while opposition legislative candidates have been disqualified.

This muscular takeover of China in the semi-autonomous territory is causing concern in Taiwan, an island of 23 million inhabitants.

Tuesday, during an exceptional meeting Tuesday in Taipei with Alex Azar, a senior official of the American government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs affirmed that Taiwan lives under the constant threat of seeing its freedoms threatened by Beijing.

“Our daily life is increasingly difficult as China continues to pressure Taiwan to accept its political conditions, conditions that will make Taiwan the next Hong Kong,” Wu said.

“The people of Taiwan are all too well accustomed to threats, whether military, diplomatic or epidemic,” he added.

U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar, who is on a three-day visit, has been the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan since 1979, when the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in order to recognize the Communist government based in Beijing as the sole representative of China.

Beijing, which still sees Taiwan as a rebellious province called upon to return to its fold, by force if necessary, condemned the historic visit to Taipei.

A rejected principle

Since the election in 2016 of President Tsai Ing-wen, re-elected for a second term in January, China has increased diplomatic, military and economic pressure on Taiwan.

Ms. Tsai rejects the principle of the unity of the island and the continent within the same China defended by Beijing and considers that Taiwan is “already an independent country”.

China has proposed to apply to the island the principle of “one country, two systems” which entered into force in Hong Kong after the 1997 restitution and is supposed to guarantee it a certain autonomy for 50 years.

If all of the major Taiwanese parties rejected this proposal, Beijing’s growing grip on Hong Kong seems to have definitively ended the lack of enthusiasm it aroused.

This trip comes against a backdrop of growing Sino-American tensions on a whole host of subjects, from the Hong Kong file to trade issues, including the coronavirus.

On Monday, the Taiwanese defense ministry said Chinese fighters had made a brief incursion beyond the midline of the Taiwan Strait which Taipei and Beijing have long considered their “border”.

During his visit, Mr. Azar praised Taiwanese democracy and its policy on combating the coronavirus.

The senior American official criticized in particular the attitude of China vis-à-vis the pandemic that has appeared on its territory as well as its authoritarianism.

Taiwan has recorded fewer than 500 cases of the coronavirus and only seven deaths.

Critics of US President Donald Trump accuse him of toughening up his tone against Beijing to better make people forget the mistakes of his administration in the fight against COVID-19, three months before the presidential election.

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