Pro-Independence Activists Attacked in Taiwan

A group of activists from Hong Kong were met with an unlikely sight when they traveled to Taiwan for pro-independence forums: a violent backlash from protesters seeking reunification with mainland China.

Police in Taipei had to keep angry protestors at bay to protect 20-year-old Joshua Wong, the secretary general of Hong Kong’s minor party Demosito, along with three party lawmakers. Wong and another activist Nathan Law were reportedly attacked on their way home following the weekend forums.

The group traveled to Taiwan hoping to garner support from the self-ruled island, which Beijing regards as a breakaway province that remains under Chinese control. According to island polls, 70% of its citizens oppose reunification with China, something China has publicly said it’s ready to bring about by force. Moreover, the ruling party of Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-Wen and most of Parliament leans toward independence.

Still, a pocket of pro-Beijing sympathizers exists in Taiwan, and the event sparked questions about who organized the protests. Answers range from local pro-Beijing activists to organized gangs.

Pro-unification activist group The Patriot Assn. claims it organized the protest.

The Taipei Times newspaper quoted local anti government protest leader Lin Fei-fan as saying he has information linking the protests to the Four Seas Gang, an international triad composed mostly of people with connections to mainland China. Patriot Assn. maintains the syndicate was not involved.

The episode began as soon as Wong’s delegation arrived Saturday to about 200 protesters at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. Police then escorted Wong to a vehicle which took him to the forum, where 300 protesters gathered. About 20 activists gathered Sunday morning to protest again, according to a police statement. They were questioned and their case turned over to prosecutors.

But the counter wave followed Wong back to Hong Kong, where he was attacked by another group of people supporting China, according to an an aide to Law.

“To my surprise, they started pushing toward me even though there were a few airport security staff surrounding me,” Law said in a statement Monday. “Their actions quickly escalated when they tried to pull me out of the crowd, where my shirt was torn apart and my glasses fell off as a result. Some of them even poured some unknown stinking liquid and threw plastic bottles at me.

“I was immediately escorted by the airport security to the taxi station, but unfortunately I was attacked again at the staircase,” he said.

About Andrew Burke 145 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Burke is a lifelong aficionado of all things Chinese. He studied Mandarin while living in Taiwan for six years and now works as a digitization specialist at the Yenching Library, which specializes in Asian books and documents, at Harvard University where he also studies topics related to China, Chinese, Asia and foreign affairs.