TAIPEI, Taiwan—A mainland Chinese tourist has been kicked out of Taiwan on Oct. 8, after he was charged for intentionally destroying a “Lennon Wall” erected by local supporters of the ongoing Hong Kong protests.
Li Shaodong, 30, was arrested after he tore down posters plastered on a wall inside the campus of National Taiwan University (NTU) on Oct. 7 morning and tried to flee the scene. At many college campuses in Taiwan, students have put up such Lennon Walls, large mosaics of post-it notes and posters that convey messages of solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters.
Li’s actions were caught on video by an NTU student.
Mass demonstrations in Hong Kong against a now-suspended extradition bill have since broadened to include calls for greater democracy. Now in their 18th consecutive week, the protests against Beijing’s growing encroachment upon Hong Kong affairs enjoy enormous support in Taiwan. Some locals have supported drives to donate helmets and gas masks to Hong Kong protesters, while others have joined local rallies to voice support for the demonstrations.
NTU’s student union, in a statement issued on its Facebook page after Li’s arrest, said that the school’s Lennon Wall, a symbol of freedom of speech, was protected by local law because the wall was set up after getting proper approval from school authorities.
It added that the union would press charges against Li, “to fight against violations of democracy and freedom.” It then called on more students to support the Lennon Wall and voice “opposition against China’s authoritarian rule and support to Hongkongers.”
Last week, Chiu Feng-kuang, director-general of Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency, told lawmakers at a parliamentary hearing that mainland Chinese could be barred from entering Taiwan should they damage local Lennon Walls.
On Oct. 8 morning, local police sent Li to Taipei’s prosecutor office on one count of damage to property, according to Taiwan’s government-run Central News Agency (CNA). Li then entered into a deferred prosecution agreement by agreeing to pay a fine of $30,000 New Taiwan Dollars ($927.9).
Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency then revoked Li’s permission to stay as a tourist, based on a local regulation governing Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan. The agency further imposed a five-year travel ban preventing Li from entering Taiwan.
According to CNA, Li was deported after being escorted by immigration officials to Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport on Oct. 8 evening.
This is the first case of a mainland Chinese being deported over destruction of a Lennon Wall.
But Li’s case is not an isolated incident. Media have reported several mainland Chinese tourists and Chinese exchange students damaging other Lennon Walls in Taiwan. In one incident, a Chinese exchange student at I-Shou University attacked his schoolmate from Hong Kong, after the latter tried to stop him from removing post-it messages in support of Hong Kong protests.
The string of attacks has prompted several Taiwanese officials to voice condemnation against visiting mainland Chinese, including President Tsai Ing-wen.
Most recently, on Oct. 8, Premier Su Tseng-chang, while speaking at a local parliamentary session, said that the Taiwanese government does not tolerate visitors coming to the island to damage Taiwan’s democracy and freedom, according to CNA.
Su elaborated that such values “are not given freely,” so it is important that the government safeguard them.
Taiwan successfully transitioned from a one-party rule to a full-fledged democracy in 1996 when the island held its first direct presidential election.