TAIPEI (CNA) — A senior official in Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Wednesday urged citizens to exercise caution when visiting Hong Kong, one day after China imposed a sweeping national security law on the territory that makes support for Hong Kong or Taiwan independence punishable by up to life imprisonment.
“I hope Taiwanese people traveling to Hong Kong will be mindful of their safety, because this is a law that affects not only Hong Kongers, but people in Taiwan and in countries around the world,” DPP Deputy Secretary-General Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) said at a party gathering Wednesday.
The new law, which China imposed late Tuesday, criminalizes four categories of offenses — separatism, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign countries — with maximum penalties of life imprisonment.
Because the law can be applied for “offenses” committed inside or outside the territory, and explicitly defines secession as anything undermining the territorial integrity of China, opponents of the law fear it could be used to prosecute anyone who has spoken in support of Taiwan independence.
On Wednesday, Taiwan’s government officially opened an office in Taipei which it said would provide “necessary assistance” to Hong Kongers affected by the law.
The Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office will provide counseling and assistance to Hong Kongers wishing to come to Taiwan to study, work, invest or take up residence, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said in a press release.
The office will be led by Du Jia-fen (杜嘉芬), director of the MAC’s Department of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, and will have a staff of around 20 people, according to MAC Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正).
In terms of the political response in Taiwan, President and DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said she expected the law to “fundamentally affect” the rule of law and human rights in Hong Kong, and said her party would continue to assist the region’s residents.
Meanwhile, opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) urged Beijing to respect Hong Kong’s legal autonomy, and reiterated that his party does not accept the “one country, two systems” model that China has also proposed for Taiwan.
At the same time, he continued, the KMT does not subscribe to the narrative promoted by “some political parties” that the Republic of China (Taiwan) is the next Hong Kong.
“The Republic of China is an independent and sovereign nation, and today’s Hong Kong will not become tomorrow’s Taiwan,” Chiang said.