Taiwanese Election Candidate Denied Entry Into Hong KongNew Power Party candidate Huang Kuo-chang was invited to appear on a CNN talk show, but the territory’s immigration authorities won’t let him in
Amid mounting speculation surrounding the mysterious disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers, another development this week suggests a further erosion of freedoms in the Special Administrative Region as Beijing turns the screws on the former British colony.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), a candidate of the small New Power Party in Taiwan’s Jan. 16 legislative elections, revealed that Hong Kong authorities had refused to issue him an entry visa. A former research fellow at the prestigious Academia Sinica in Taipei and a leader of the Sunflower Movement, Huang, who now doubles as chairman of the NPP, was invited by CNN to appear on a special program on Taiwan’s elections, to be filmed in the news network’s Hong Kong studios after the Jan. 16 vote.*
This was the second time that Huang was denied entry into the territory. He faced a similar fate in June 2014 when he, along with student activists Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), were prevented from entering. At the time, the immigration office’s rejection may have been attributed to jitteriness over Occupy Central, which eventually turned into the Umbrella Movement.
Under the “one country, two systems” formula, Hong Kong was expected — in theory at least — to retain a certain level of autonomy from Beijing on matters such as immigration. However, recent developments have led many observers to conclude that the central government is increasingly meddling in the SAR’s “domestic” affairs, which has had a chilling effect on press freedoms, book retail, the publishing industry, and the education sector.
Beijing also undoubtedly worries about possible cooperation between the civil societies in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
In his post, Huang wrote that he had been eager to appear on the political talk show and did not understand the rationale behind the decision by immigration authorities to turn down his online visa application. It is very likely, he wrote, that the territory’s immigration system has come under the influence of the central government. (Another possibility is government inertia; once a name is in a government system…)
Some people have left comments on Huang’s Facebook post jesting that Hong Kong authorities had done him a favor by not letting him in as otherwise the Chinese could have “kidnapped” him, a reference to speculation that the five publishers who have gone missing may have been seized by Chinese police.
*Thinking Taiwan has since learned that CNN has decided to send a team to Taiwan to film the program rather than do so in its studios in Hong Kong as initially planned.
(Updated 2016.01.09, 12:03pm.)
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.