China has been clamping down on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong based on the national security law it enforced there in June. How far-reaching will China’s anti-democracy initiative be? [In his interview with the Sankei Shimbun] Hsieh Chang-ting, representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan (de facto ambassador to Japan), said he is vigilant against such a Chinese move in Taiwan, noting that “Taiwan is China’s next target.” [Below are excerpts of the interview.]
Q: What is the aim of the national security law?
Hsieh: In response to a series of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, China forcibly stepped beyond Hong Kong’s “one-country-two-systems” legal framework and attempted to deal a serious blow to the pro-democracy forces there. The Communist Party of China (CPC) is using legislation as a political tool to deflect people’s attention from its domestic problems, such as internal power struggle and stagnant economic growth caused by the pandemic and massive floods.
On Aug. 10, authorities arrested Jimmy Lai, the founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, and Agnes Chow, a female pro-democracy activist, and later released them on bail. The footage of the arrests was heart-wrenching and must have angered everyone who saw it.
The national security law includes a provision that the law is applicable not only to Hong Kong residents but also to people who do not have permanent residency there. This is aimed at squelching the expression of opinions, both in Hong Kong and overseas, that are negative about the CPC. We would be foolish to ignore concerns that China’s next target could be Taiwan (which Chinese leader Xi Jinping is pressuring to accept a one-country two-systems policy).
Q: How would Taiwan respond to that?
Hsieh: Hong Kong was guaranteed a “one-country-two-systems” framework, including being granted a high degree of autonomy, for 50 years after its reversion to China in 1997. But China completely destroyed Hong Kong’s autonomy (with the enforcement of the national security law). Now global democracies commonly acknowledge that China is a “country that does not abide by international rules.”
Taiwan is moving to accept immigrants from Hong Kong and is also taking other steps, such as bolstering its national defenses, but it is difficult for Taiwan and Hong Kong, namely, the “victims,” to stand up alone against China. We need support from third nations, such as Japan and the U.S.
Q: What do you expect of Japan?
Hsieh: Some people refrain from meddling in politics for the benefit of continuing business with China. But politics and the economy are closely linked in China. If you pretend not to see the political issues, you will be indirectly helping the CPC government. You must renew your thinking about basic principles of human rights and the rule of law and recognize the CPC’s true intentions.
Taiwan and Japan do not have diplomatic ties, but we should step up efforts to expand bilateral exchanges in infectious disease control, natural disaster responses, and other fields that concern people’s safety. Japan is Taiwan’s neighbor. If Taiwan fell under the control of China, Japan would have no choice but to squarely face China directly.
Q: Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui has passed away. He had very close ties with Japan.
Hsieh: Under President Lee, Taiwan made great strides in democratization. His passing is a great loss to the international community in its pursuit of freedom and democracy. But a democracy and autocratic society are different. Democracies continue to evolve even after the loss of a great statesman. Taiwan is not a society that heavily relies on one autocratic ruler.