China trying to turn Taiwan into ‘next Hong Kong’ – foreign minister

China trying to turn Taiwan into ‘next Hong Kong’ – foreign minister
US Health Secretary Azar is in Taipei, billed as the highest-level visit from Washington since it switched diplomatic recognition from the island to China in 1979. (AFP)
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Updated 11 August 2020

China trying to turn Taiwan into ‘next Hong Kong’ – foreign minister

China trying to turn Taiwan into ‘next Hong Kong’ – foreign minister
  • Crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong has gathered pace since China imposed a sweeping security law on the financial hub
  • That has caused alarm in Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory

TAIPEI: China is trying to turn democratic Taiwan into another Hong Kong, the island’s foreign minister warned Tuesday as he met with a senior US official making a historic diplomatic trip.
A crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong has gathered pace since China imposed a sweeping security law on the financial hub in June, with opposition politicians disqualified and activists arrested.
That has caused alarm in Taiwan, a self-ruled island of 23 million people that Beijing claims as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize, by force if necessary.
Foreign minister Joseph Wu said Taiwan lives under the constant threat of having its freedoms taken away by China, during a rare meeting with US cabinet official Alex Azar in Taipei on Tuesday.
“Our lives have become increasingly difficult as China continues to pressure Taiwan into accepting its political conditions, conditions that will turn Taiwan into the next Hong Kong,” he said.
“The people of Taiwan are all too familiar with dealing with threats, be it military, diplomatic or the threats of epidemics.”
Health Secretary Azar is in Taipei for a three-day visit billed as the highest-level visit from the United States since it switched diplomatic recognition from the island to China in 1979.
Beijing has ramped up diplomatic, military and economic pressure on Taiwan since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who won a second term earlier this year with a landslide.
She rejects Beijing’s stance that Taiwan is part of “one China” and instead views the island as “already independent.”
China has suggested Taiwan could be granted a version of the “one country, two systems” model it uses for Hong Kong, which supposedly guarantees certain liberties and autonomy from the authoritarian mainland.
All mainstream political parties in Taiwan have rejected the proposal.
And what little enthusiasm there was for the idea has all but evaporated as China cracks down on Hong Kong’s democracy movement.
Azar’s trip comes as relations between the US and China are in tumult, with the two sides clashing over a wide range of trade, military and security issues, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, Taiwan said China sent fighter jets over a de facto border separating the two rivals in the Taiwan Strait shortly before Azar met President Tsai.
During his visit Azar has heaped praise on Taiwan’s democracy and its success in battling the coronavirus.
He has previously criticized Beijing’s handling of the pandemic, which emerged in central China, and its authoritarian model of government.
Taiwan, which has fewer than 500 confirmed COVID-19 cases including seven deaths, has been able to contain the virus because of its democracy and transparency, Wu said.
“In contrast to an authoritarian model where the authority is too crippled to disclose fact, in the transparent Taiwan Model, we simply can’t afford to lie or conceal.”
China has also managed to get its outbreak largely under control, with sweeping lockdowns and travel restrictions.
In contrast, the United States has the highest death toll with more than 160,000 fatalities.
US President Donald Trump has been accused by critics of taking a harder stance toward China to distract from his coronavirus response as he seeks re-election in November.


Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

Updated 04 December 2020

Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

COTABATO, Philippines: Dozens of militants aligned with the Daesh group opened fire on a Philippine army detachment and burned a police patrol car in a southern town but withdrew after troops returned fire, officials said Friday.
There were no immediate reports of injuries in Thursday night’s brief attack by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Piang town. Nevertheless it sparked panic among residents and rekindled fears of a repeat of a 2017 militant siege of southern Marawi city that lasted for five months before being quelled by government forces.
“We are on top of the situation. This is just an isolated case,” regional military commander Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. said in a statement.
Security officials gave differing statements on the motive of the 30 to 50 gunmen. Some said the militants targeted Datu Piang’s police chief over a feud but others speculated that the militants wanted to project that they are still a force to reckon with by attacking the army detachment in the center of the predominantly Muslim town.
Officials denied earlier reports that the militants managed to seize a police station and burn a Roman Catholic church.
When reinforcement troops in armored carriers arrived and opened fire, the militants fled toward a marshland, military officials said.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is one of a few small armed groups waging a separatist rural insurrection in the south of the largely Roman Catholic nation. The groups opposed a 2014 autonomy deal forged by the largest Muslim rebel group in the south with the Philippine government and have continued on and off attacks despite being weakened by battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism.
The armed groups include the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization for kidnappings for ransom, beheadings and bombings.