Thousands March in Taiwan to Demand That Beijing Release 12 Detained Hongkongers

October 26, 2020 Updated: October 27, 2020

TAIPEI, Taiwan—About 3,000 people took part in a march in downtown Taipei on Oct. 25 afternoon, voicing support for 12 Hongkongers who have been held by mainland Chinese authorities for over 2 months.

Among those taking part were a Hong Kong couple surnamed Wong and their two sons.

Mrs. Wong told the Taiwan branch of The Epoch Times that the family moved to Taiwan last year due to the social instability in Hong Kong following mass pro-democracy protests. She believed the 12 Hongkongers should be sent back to Hong Kong instead of being tried in Chinese court.

The 12 detainees, aged 16 to 33, were arrested at sea by mainland Chinese authorities on Aug. 23 after they set out from Hong Kong in a boat, allegedly trying to escape to Taiwan to claim political asylum.

Wong added that Beijing has abandoned its promise of ruling Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” framework. Thus, people can no longer take to the streets to express themselves.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997, with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) promising to guarantee the city basic freedoms and autonomy not available in the mainland.

Wong said she wanted her two sons, both in elementary school, to take part in the march, so they could understand “what they can do for their future and the society, while knowing what is justice.”

The march started from a local metro station and ended at the Hong Kong Economic, Trade, and Cultural Office late on Sunday afternoon.

People held signs and flags with the words “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times,” a popular protest slogan that has been banned in Hong Kong following Beijing’s imposition of a national security law that punishes vaguely-defined crimes such as succession and subversion with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The law went into effect late on June 30.

The Taipei march was part of a global solidarity campaign, with events in over 30 cities beginning on Oct. 23, including New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles, to call for the release of the 12 Hongkongers.

Hong Kong’s security chief John Lee explained in a statement that the 12 people were previously charged in seven criminal cases in Hong Kong, including for rioting, possession of explosives, and arson. One was arrested by Hong Kong police for violating the new security law “in relation to collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.” All had been released on bail and not allowed to leave the territory.

They are currently being held at a detention center run by the municipal police bureau in Yantian district in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.

On Sept. 30, the Yantian prosecutor’s office announced that the 12 Hongkongers were formally arrested after being charged with either “suspicion of illegally crossing the border” or “suspicion of organizing others to illegally cross the border.”

The plight of the 12 Hongkongers has drawn international criticism, especially after they were denied access to their family members and family-appointed lawyers.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement expressing concerns on Sept. 11, and State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus renewed such concerns on Twitter after the Hong Kong government arrested nine people on Oct. 10 for allegedly helping the 12 Hongkongers in their attempt to flee to Taiwan.

Last week, more than 60 British lawmakers sent a joint letter to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, urging him to make it a “diplomatic priority” to secure the return of the twelve to Hong Kong by contacting Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and China’s foreign minister.

Many Hongkongers have fled to Taiwan since June last year, to avoid prosecution by the Hong Kong government for participating in an ongoing pro-democracy movement—ignited after widespread opposition to an extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong authorities to send people to mainland China for trial. That bill has since been scrapped.

In 2019, a total of 5,858 people from Hong Kong obtained residence permits to stay in Taiwan, an increase of 41 percent (4,148) compared to a year ago, according to data from Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency. In the first four months of this year, 474 Hongkongers were granted permits to stay on the island.

A short rally was held prior to the march during which several prominent local political figures gave a short speech, including independent lawmaker Freddy Lim; Rita Jhang, secretary-general of the local Green Party; and Lin Fei-fan, deputy secretary-general of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Lim said that people should work together to put pressure on the Chinese regime, to secure the release of not only the 12 Hongkongers, but also Chinese human rights activists and dissidents currently being detained or suppressed.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer