Taiwan petition calls for solidarity with Hong Kong subversion defendants

A former Hong Kong bookstore manager says the democratic island is well-placed to resist Beijing's growing power.
By Jojo Man for RFA Cantonese and Chen Zifei for RFA Mandarin
2023.02.07
Taiwan petition calls for solidarity with Hong Kong subversion defendants Lee Yue-shun, one of the 47 pro-democracy activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion under the national security law, arrives at the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts building in Hong Kong, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.
Credit: Reuters

Student campaigners in the democratic island of Taiwan have launched a petition campaign expressing solidarity with 47 former opposition lawmakers and activists currently standing trial in Hong Kong on charges of subversion for taking part in a democratic primary election in 2020.

The Feb. 6 petition warned Taiwanese people not to be taken in by China's call for "peaceful unification" under the "one country, two systems" model used in Hong Kong and Macau.

"It will eventually lead to the demise of national sovereignty, with countless civilians arrested at every turn, and an end to the stability we once enjoyed," the petition, signed by dozens of prominent human rights campaigners and activists said.

It said recent talk among local politicians of a "peace accord" with China could put the island on a slippery slope towards assimilation under Beijing's rule.

"The point of talking about Hong Kong politics and taking Hong Kong-related initiatives in Taiwan is that when they people here support Hong Kong, they are also reminding the people around them and the general public in Taiwan [of the threat posed by Beijing]," Taiwan-based campaigner and petition co-author Law Sze Wai told Radio Free Asia.

"By understanding Hong Kong's experience, we understand what kind of enemy the Chinese Communist Party is, and what kind of strategy should be used to deal with them," Law said. 

New publishing brands

The petition came as a prominent Hong Kong author launched a new publishing brand to serve fellow Cantonese-language writers who fled an ongoing crackdown in their home city to settle in the democratic island of Taiwan.

Tang Siu Wa said 2046 Press, named for Beijing's now-discarded promise that Hong Kong would maintain its traditional freedoms for 50 years after the 1997 handover, launched in Taipei on Feb. 2, in a bid to offer some freedom of expression to Hong Kong literary exiles now living in Taiwan, she told Radio Free Asia.

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Shen Hsu-hui, who will be president of both 1841 Press and 2046 Press, says books are an excellent way to ensure that people keep talking about the 2019 protest movement. Credit: Chunyin

"The [idea of] 2046 shows the importance of the imagination in art and literature, and I hope that we will be able to forge new connections with thoughts, imagination and feeling about Hong Kong," Tang told reporters at the launch of the publishing house.

Some books that would be highly suited to the Hong Kong market or are authentic Hong Kong works can no longer be published in the city due to growing political censorship as Beijing tightens its grip on the city, Tang said.

She said Hong Kong writers in exile could now publish in Taiwan, although that sense of privilege was also mixed with sadness at the loss of the city they once knew.

According to Tang, 2046 will focus on Hong Kong-themed literary and artistic titles, as well as genre fiction and online writing, while a sister imprint 1841 Press will focus on the city's history, as well as non-fiction and scientific titles.

Tang said 2046 won't exclude non-Hong Kong writers, but that she particularly expects to receive works for consideration about the experience of exile and migration.

2046 Press will be an imprint of the Book Republic publishing group, whose President Kuo Chung-hsing said incoming Hong Kongers have brought fresh creative energy to Taiwan's literary scene.

Cross-pollination

In a reference to warnings that growing Chinese control over Hong Kong could be replicated in Taiwan if the island's 23 million people aren't vigilant over the loss of their freedoms, Kuo said there was considerable cross-pollination between the two territories.

"We don't know if it will really turn out to be Hong Kong today, Taiwan tomorrow," Kuo said. "But I will say that right now it's not just about Taiwan supporting Hong Kong."

"Hong Kongers have also brought a lot of spiritual and cultural nourishment to Taiwan."

Shen Hsu-hui, who will be president of both 1841 Press and 2046 Press, said books are an excellent way to ensure that people keep talking about the 2019 protest movement -- which began as mass resistance to extradition to mainland China and broadened to include demands for universal suffrage -- and its aftermath.

"We hope that our themes won't just focus on Hong Kong but also be in dialogue with people in Taiwan, so they won't just be aimed at readers from a certain place, but for people all over the world," Shen told the news conference launching the new imprint.

"We hope that what we publish at 1841 and 2046 will last forever, that Hong Kong will exist forever, regardless of what happens to Hong Kong as an actual place," he said.

"I would also like to see the spirit of Hong Kong combine with that of other places, so it lives on in an embodied way."

Banned political books

Former Hong Kong-based Causeway Bay Bookstore manager Lam Wing-kei, who emigrated to Taiwan in the wake of the 2019 protest movement after being detained by Chinese police in 2015 for selling banned political books to readers in mainland China, said he plans to stay on the island, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949 and has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.

He recently applied for permanent residency, in the hope of settling there to join fellow exiled literary and artistic Hong Kongers.

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Lam Wing-kei, a former Hong Kong bookstore owner who fled to Taiwan in 2019, recently applied for permanent residency, in the hope of settling there to join fellow exiled literary and artistic Hong Kongers. Credit: Associated Press file photo

"If I went back to Hong Kong, I could never achieve anything there, because everyone knows it's now controlled by the Communist Party, and there isn't going to be any more resistance there," Lam told Radio Free Asia in a recent interview.

"So I am running a bookstore, selling books that talk about various issues in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, which is also a kind of resistance," he said. "I can do more staying here in Taiwan ... so I think it's wiser and more positive to stay here."

Lam said Taiwanese also need a mentality of resistance in case Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who hasn't ruled out annexing the island, carries out his threat of invasion.

"The situation in Ukraine shows us that Taiwan can resist too, and that Russia wasn't as powerful as it claimed to be," Lam said. "The same is true for mainland China, and we shouldn't be intimidated by them."

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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