Sunflower Leaders Denied Entry into Hong KongLin Fei-fan, Chen Wei-ting and Huang Kuo-chang have seen their applications to visit Hong Kong to support activists there denied by the authorities
As the crisis in Hong Kong intensifies amid Occupy Central and Beijing’s release of its White Paper on “One Country, Two Systems” — which in many eyes was more a warning to the territory than a mere academic exercise — an increasing number of people are finding that they are not welcome to enter the Special Administrative Region. Earlier this week, three architects of the Sunflower Movement’s occupation fell victim to that growing trend.
The decision by Hong Kong authorities to turn back Republic of China citizens is not without precedent. In November 2013, Wu’er Kaixi, one of the Tiananmen student leaders in 1989, was denied entry as he was attempting to enter China to be reunited with his parents, whom he had not seen in more than twenty years. After a brief detention, the Uighur, one of the “most wanted” men in China, was sent back to Taiwan. Other individuals have also received similar treatment over the years as the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre approached. Most recently, Tseng Chien-yuan (曾建元), an associate professor of public administration at Chung Hua University in Hsinchu, was informed in late May that his Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents had been cancelled and was sent back to Taiwan. He was told so upon arriving in Hong Kong. (Since 2009, Hong Kong has granted holders of a Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents 30-day entry; individuals who do not own such a document must apply for an entry permit prior to their visit.)
Tseng, a board member of the New School for Democracy (華人民主書院), was planning to attend an international seminar at City University in Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of the Massacre. As June 4 approached, activists from abroad were also prevented from entering the territory. In the lead-up to the anniversary, Beijing had also detained several academics and journalists in China in an unprecedented crackdown that sparked criticism among China watchers and rights organizations.
More bizarre, and as far as we know not related to Tiananmen sensitivities, was the denial of entry in mid-June of Su Yeong-chin (蘇永欽), vice president of the Judicial Yuan and younger brother of former National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起). The younger Su, who comes from the conservative camp within President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), was expected to deliver a keynote address at Hong Kong University’s Faculty of Law on the subject of transitions from authoritarian rule. Hong Kong immigration authorities refused to comment on the case. (Earlier that month, Su Chi had been part of a group behind the “Greater One China” initiative, a proposal which China’s Taiwan Affairs Office dismissed within 24 hours.)
Needless to say, the growing trend of denials could have a deleterious impact on the all-important scholarly exchanges between Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China, and furthermore points to Beijing’s meddling in the immigration decisions of the territory’s administration. The current context of Occupy Central and snowballing discontent among residents of the territory, added to signs of nascent collaboration between Taiwanese and Hong Kong activists, are also very likely behind the clampdown.
This reality hit home earlier this week when student activists and Sunflower Movement leaders Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), as well as Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica, were denied visas to enter Hong Kong to attend events at the end of June. The trio and other individuals associated with the New School for Democracy were hoping to attend democratic seminars in Hong Kong held to coincide with the 17th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.
In a Facebook entry on June 24, Lin wrote that they had hoped to join the seminars to show their solidarity for Hong Kong activists involved in Occupy Central and the unofficial referendum on universal suffrage. Besides their shared democratic ideals, many people in Hong Kong had expressed their support for the Sunflower Movement’s three-week-long occupation of the Legislative Yuan in March and April this year, Lin wrote, and they were hoping to reciprocate the kindness.
“I feel very confused — I’m very sorry, in fact. Besides political reasons, we cannot think of any other reasons to refuse us entry into Hong Kong,” Lin wrote, adding that efforts by either governments to prevent cooperation between Taiwan and Hong Kong would fail.
Ironically, Beijing’s White Paper and repressive measures have only succeeded in bringing Taiwanese and Hong Kong societies closer together by making it evident that democratic forces on both sides must unite against the authoritarian forces that are pitted against them. As Beijing and its allies in the territory turn the screw on civil society, Taiwan’s democratic alliance should perhaps test the Ma administration by inviting Hong Kong activists to participate in seminars in Taiwan. After all, Ma is all for democracy in China, is he not?
J. Michael Cole is editor in chief of Thinking Taiwan, a senior non-resident fellow at the China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham, and an Associate researcher at the French Center for Research on Contemporary China (CEFC) in Taipei.