TAIPEI, Taiwan—Immigration officials in Taiwan have warned mainland Chinese tourists and exchange students that they won’t be granted re-entry to the island if they damage the so-called Lennon Walls that have been created by people who support Hong Kong protesters.
The mass demonstrations in Hong Kong against Beijing’s encroachment into local affairs, now in their 17th week, enjoy enormous support in Taiwan. Some locals have supported drives to donate helmets and gas masks to Hong Kong protesters, while others have set up “Lennon Walls,” which are large mosaics of Post-it notes and posters put up by supporters to convey messages of solidarity with the protesters.
The Lennon Walls are named after the original John Lennon wall in communist-controlled Prague in the 1980s that was covered with Beatles lyrics and messages of political grievance.
The warning came from Chiu Feng-kuang, director-general of Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency, while answering a question from lawmaker Wang Ting-yu at a Parliament meeting held by the Foreign and National Defense Committee on Oct. 2.
Wang, a member of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), noted recent instances of mainland Chinese exchange students and tourists intentionally damaging the displays at local colleges, including I-Shou University, Chinese Culture University, and Shih Hsin University.
There were also cases of Hong Kong exchange students being beaten, cursed, or had drinks splashed in their faces by mainland Chinese students, according to Wang.
“We have to protect students. Not just Taiwan and Hong Kong students, but those Chinese who truly come to Taiwan for studies—those without political agendas and without political standpoints,” Wang said.
Stoked by propaganda in Chinese state media that have portrayed Hong Kong protesters as separatists, many mainland Chinese have been moved to disrupt local events in support of Hong Kong.
The lawmaker asked Chiu whether Chinese students who engage in such disruptions should be allowed to re-enter the island after they leave. In response, Chiu said, “If they violate regulations or break the laws, we will not let them enter again.”
He added: “I believe the joint review committee will not agree to let them enter again.”
The joint review committee is an intergovernmental committee that includes Taiwan’s National Security Bureau; the Mainland Affairs Council, which is tasked with dealing with Chinese-related issues; and the National Immigration Agency.
Chiu also confirmed that a Chinese couple surnamed Wu and their child, who tore down Lennon Walls at the National Sun Yat-sen University on Sept. 27, wouldn’t be allowed to re-enter Taiwan.
Wang said the issue of whether to expel mainland Chinese students who have broken Taiwan’s regulations or laws in events related to Hong Kong protests was also brought up during the parliamentary meeting, but no consensus was reached.
Under Taiwan’s current regulations governing the entry of mainland Chinese into Taiwan, mainland Chinese who either have a “sensitive” background or are transferred to work in the island from a Chinese company based in either Macau, Hong Kong, or mainland China, must receive approval from the joint review committee.
Meanwhile, mainland Chinese students seeking to study in Taiwan need approval from Taiwan’s Ministry of Education and the National Immigration Agency, after submitting necessary documents, including a document proving their student status.
There have been previous cases of the joint review committee denying Chinese from entry to Taiwan.
In March 2006, the committee stopped a Chinese film crew, on the grounds that the movie they were planning to shoot was Chinese propaganda that would distort Taiwan’s history, according to local daily newspaper Liberty Times.
Taiwan is on high alert regarding Chinese infiltration, as Beijing has launched concerted efforts to persuade Taiwanese into accepting its agenda. The Chinese regime considers Taiwan a renegade province that must be united with the mainland, by military force if necessary, even as the island is a de facto independent country with its own democratically elected officials and military.
“Taiwan is a democratic country. It is not a territory overrun by totalitarianism. Here, we embrace people of different opinions. But we will never accept people resorting to violence to treat others with different opinions,” Tsai wrote.
On Sept. 13, an unidentified Hong Kong student was choked by a schoolmate from China after he tried to stop the latter from removing a Post-it from his dormitory door at I-Shou University, according to local media Apple Daily.
Gary Cheung, a Hong Kong student enrolled at the National Taiwan University of Arts in Taipei, went live on one of the school’s Facebook pages on Oct. 2, and spoke about his encounter with about 10 mainland Chinese students who were putting blank Post-its over Lennon Walls in support of Hong Kong, according to Radio Free Asia.
Speaking to RFA, Cheung expressed concern that freedom of speech at Taiwanese colleges may slowly be eroded by acts that hurt the island’s democracy and freedoms.
Also on Oct. 2, Taiwan Education Minister Pan Wen-chung announced that his ministry has established an ad hoc team to work with local universities, to address disputes between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese students, according to Taiwan’s English-language newspaper Taipei Times. Pan made the remark while speaking on the sideline of a parliamentary committee meeting.