Freedom has 'vanished', Taiwan says on Hong Kong anniversary

·2 min read
Chinese and Hong Kong flags decorate a street in Hong Kong

TAIPEI (Reuters) -Freedom in Hong Kong has "vanished" and China has failed to live up to its promises of 50 years without change, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Friday, the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, on a rare visit to the global financial hub on Friday, swore in Hong Kong's new leader, former security chief John Lee, who is sanctioned by the United States over his role in implementing a national security law there.

Most people in Chinese-claimed Taiwan have shown no interest in being run by Beijing, and the government has repeatedly rejected China's offer of "one country, two systems" to rule the island, as with Hong Kong and Macau.

Speaking to reporters in Taipei, Su said promises that life would go on as normal for Hong Kong after the handover had not been kept.

"It's only been 25 years, and in the past the promise was 50 years of no change. The 'dancing will go on and horses still run' has disappeared, and even freedom and democracy have vanished," Su added, using a Hong Kong expression about how life would not change under Chinese rule.

"We also know that we must hold fast to Taiwan's sovereignty, freedom and democracy," Su added. "China's so-called 'one country, two systems' has simply not stood up to the test."

PROTESTS

Anti-government protests in Hong Kong, followed by a crackdown and imposition of the harsh national security law have be widely condemned in democratic Taiwan. Beijing and the Hong Kong government say the law was necessary to restore stability to the city.

Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, under a "one country, two systems" formula which guarantees wide-ranging autonomy and judicial independence not seen in mainland China.

Critics of the government, including Western nations, accuse authorities of trampling on those freedoms, which Beijing and Hong Kong reject.

China has been stepping up its military and political pressure to get Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty. Taiwan's government says only the island's people can decide their future.

Later on Friday, Taiwan's tiny Chinese Unification Promotion Party held a short rally outside the Bank of China building in Taipei to celebrate the anniversary, though with more police in attendance than party supporters.

They dispersed after less than an hour.

(Reporting by Ben BlanchardEditing by Gareth Jones)