Authorities in Hong Kong have effectively banned any celebration of democratic Taiwan’s Oct. 10 National Day, a custom with a strong minority following in the city, according to a media interview with its security chief.
Secretary for security Chris Tang told the pro-ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Singtao Daily News that Hong Kong would be marking National Day celebrations on the same day as the rest of China, on Oct. 1, and said the festival “shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
The “Double Tenth” anniversary marks the beginning of the revolution led by nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen that toppled the last Qing dynasty (1644-1911) emperor, and is marked as National Day on the democratic island of Taiwan.
Official celebrations in mainland China are typically more muted, with Oct. 1 celebrated as National Day marking the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Zedong in 1949.
“The National Security Law lists four types of crimes, including splitting the country, subverting state power, organizing and carrying out terrorist activities, colluding with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security, carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment,” Singtao Daily News reported, citing an interview with Tang.
It said Tang had warned in the interview of possible “serious violations” of the law if Hongkongers celebrate Taiwan’s National Day on Oct. 10, which marks the 1911 founding of the Republic of China formed after the fall of the Qing dynasty by Sun Yat-sen.
“We will absolutely take decisive action to enforce the law if anyone tries to separate Taiwan from China,” Tang said, in a reference to Beijing’s claim on the democratic island, which has never been ruled by the CCP, nor formed part of the People’s Republic of China.
“I urge people not to do this, as it is a very serious crime.”
While the CCP itself marks the anniversary of the 1911 revolution when it finds it politically appropriate to do so, it takes a dim view of popular celebrations of the Oct. 10 revolution anniversary, which it sees as support for Taiwan separatism.
‘We have no alternative’
Pro-KMT figure Mak Yip-sing, who served as vice chairman of the Yuen Long District Council, and who has organized Double Tenth events in Hong Kong for years, said the celebrations of the revolution would be canceled this year.
“Chris Tang has made the same statement again today, so we have no alternative,” Mak told RFA. “It seems the 1911 Revolution never happened, and we are still in the Qing dynasty.”
Hong Kong has long been home to a community of supporters of the Kuomintang, which is currently Taiwan’s opposition party, but which founded the 1911 Republic of China and took it to Taiwan after losing the civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists in China.
Conflict between KMT supporters and Hong Kong communists led to the Double Tenth Riots of 1956 in Tsuen Wan and Kowloon, in which dozens of people were killed.
Politically, the pro-KMT faction in Hong Kong has supported fully democratic elections, but opposed “Taiwan independence.”
Taiwan operates as a self-governing state using the Republic of China name, celebrating National Day on Oct. 10. Its 23 million people have no wish to be forced to “unify” with China under the CCP.
Asked if the Republic of China flag would now be banned in Hong Kong, Tang said the authorities would deal with it on a case-by-case basis.
“Anyone thinking about doing this should ask themselves what their true intention is in celebrating [the Oct. 10 National Day],” he told the paper.
“It would depend on whether there was writing on the flag, what the writing says, who is nearby, what they are saying, and what sort of reaction their behavior causes in others.”
Everything to do with Hong Kong
Current affairs commentator Johnny Lau said the move has more to do with ensuring the total suppression of any political opposition in Hong Kong than with support for Taiwan’s independence.
“[Tang] didn’t elaborate on pro-Taiwan independence in Hong Kong, but this is a form of political pressure that is permeating the whole of Hong Kong, and suppressing any dissenting opinions or opposition groups,” he said.
“This has very little to do with relations across the Taiwan Strait and everything to do with Hong Kong, which has never been home to supporters or activism in favor of Taiwan independence,” Lau said.
Last year, a restaurant in Mong Kok district pulled out of a planned gathering on Oct. 10, citing coronavirus restrictions, although Mak said at the time he suspected it was more closely linked to the national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the CCP from July 1, 2020.
A ceremony to raise the KMT flag — which is also the current flag of Taiwan — at the Red House in Tuen Mun, which once formed a base for anti-Qing activities in Hong Kong, on Oct. 10, 2020, was also canceled after security guards refused to allow anyone into the public gardens, citing maintenance work.
The 1911 revolution was sparked by an armed uprising in the central city of Wuchang, part of present-day Wuhan, on Oct. 10, resulting in the fall of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) the following year.
It has also become a symbolic date for mainland China’s army of petitioners, ordinary people who seek redress for long-running complaints against officials and government departments, often to no avail and at the cost of beatings, detention, and official harassment.
During the centenary year in 2011, Beijing sponsored a series of events to mark the anniversary, including the launch in June of a blockbuster movie celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, “The Beginning of the Great Revival.”
The movie, starring some of the biggest names in Chinese movies, including Chow Yun-fat and Andy Lau, tells a story based on the 1911 revolution and the founding of the Chinese Communist Party on July 31, 1921.
Dissidents and independent commentators say Beijing’s celebrations are purely political, and aimed at shoring up its version of history and thereby its hold on power.
China’s Kuomintang (KMT) nationalist government under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek relocated to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists on the mainland.
The island began a transition to democracy following the death of Chiang’s son, President Chiang Ching-kuo, in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of a president, Lee Teng-hui, in 1996.
Recent opinion polls indicate that there is broad political support for continued self-rule in Taiwan, where the majority of voters identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese.
Beijing has threatened to invade if Taiwan seeks formal statehood.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.