The ruling Chinese Communist Party on Tuesday hit out at recent visits by Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, saying that the city's nascent independence movement will never be permitted to make common cause with that of self-ruled Taiwan.
"What so-called Taiwan independence and so-called Hong Kong independence have in common is is that they are hell-bent on destroying the country and bringing disaster to its people, under the banner of freedom and democracy," party mouthpiece the People's Daily said in an editorial on Tuesday.
"But it doesn't matter how rampant they run, mainland China is confident and determined to curb them," it warned.
The paper hit out at student activist and Demosisto party member Joshua Wong, who last week "attended a forum run by ... a party that supports so-called independence."
In a sneering reference to recent attacks on Wong and Demosisto lawmaker Nathan Law in Taiwan and at Hong Kong's international airport, the paper said the activists, who have denied being pro-independence, were looking for help wherever they can find it.
"The so-called Hong Kong independence movement is having a hard time at the moment, with people attacking and yelling at them wherever they go, and so they look to the so-called Taiwan independence movement for welcome," the paper said.
"But they are clutching at straws," it said. "These brothers in adversity know all too well that the road they are traveling is a dead end, but they still feel that they must brazen it out."
Law, now Hong Kong's youngest lawmaker, said he was jostled on Sunday night by protesters at the city's international airport on his return from a speaking tour to visit pro-democracy activists in Taiwan earlier this month.
Two people were arrested after anti-independence protesters threw liquid in his face and tried to attack Law, 23, who was shown stumbling down a staircase in video footage of the melee, as protesters shouted "Traitor!" and "Fall down and die!"
Earlier, Wong and Law, whose Demosisto party embraces the idea of self-determination for Hong Kong, were met by some 200 protesters in Taiwan, some of whom tried to throw punches at Wong.
Police in Taiwan have arrested 13 people with suspected China-linked triad connections over the attempted attack, which came ahead of a political forum organized by the pro-independence New Power Party, at which the pair were speaking.
The failure of the Occupy movement to convince Beijing to adopt fully democratic elections -- candidates must still be vetted before they can stand -- has sparked growing support for the idea of independence among younger people in the former British colony.
A recent opinion poll commissioned by the pro-Beijing group Silent Majority for Hong Kong showed that while more than 70 percent of respondents overall strongly supported Beijing's view that independence for the city will never be an option, only 51 percent of people aged 18-29 agreed with the Communist Party's position. Some 43 percent said they disagreed.
Silent Majority for Hong Kong convenor Robert Chow said he agreed with the People's Daily editorial.
"A movement that straddles the Taiwan Strait is of greater concern [than calls for independence in Hong Kong alone]," Chow said.
"It wouldn't do Hong Kong any good at all."
But activist Ray Wong, who founded the "localist" group Hong Kong Indigenous, said Hong Kong activists have a lot to learn from the more mature democratic system in Taiwan.
"Hong Kong can find inspiration in Taiwan, and can learn about democratization, and even about the independence movement," Ray Wong said.
"I think we will see more and more such exchanges in future."
He said pro-independence views are still in the minority in Hong Kong because they are extremely recent, having hardly been mentioned before the 2014 Occupy Central movement.
"Hong Kong's independence movement really started in early 2016, with the New Territories East by-election," he said. "Judging from the trends [identified by the survey], support for independence seems to be growing."
Independence not supported in Hong Kong
Robert Chow said the majority of Hong Kong's seven million population still strongly opposes the idea, however.
"In the 18-29 age group, some 40 percent don't support [Beijing's position], but some 50 percent do," he said. "They're still in the minority."
"Most Hong Kong people -- 70 percent -- don't want independence," he said.
Meanwhile, Joshua Wong told reporters he felt that Taiwan police were doing a better job of pursuing those responsible for the attacks on him and Law than the Hong Kong police.
"I think the Taiwan police take their jobs a bit more seriously," Wong said. "They have arrested 13 people there, whereas the Hong Kong police have only arrested four for the attack on Nathan Law."
While the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan, it regards the democratic island as a province awaiting reunification, and has threatened to invade if its government seeks formal statehood.
Beijing's diplomatic partners are required to cut official ties with the government in Taiwan, which was taken over by the Kuomintang nationalist government after World War II, ending 50 years of Japanese rule there.
Repeated polls have shown that many of Taiwan's 23 million residents identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese, and that there is broad political support for de facto self-rule, if not formal independence.
President Tsai's Ing-wen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) swept to power earlier this year amid fears of growing Chinese influence over Taiwan under her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou.
Tsai's party has a staunchly pro-independence wing.
Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.