Taiwan’s former President, Ma Ying-Jeou has been refused permission to visit Hong Kong by incumbent President, Tsai Ing-wen.
Ma, who was the Taiwanese President from 2008 to 2016 was due to deliver a keynote speech on Wednesday at the Society of Publishers in Asia award dinner in Hong Kong.
According to Time, a spokeswoman from Ma’s office said that this decision showed “disrespect” and “damages Taiwan’s democratic image in the world.” Time also cites the vice chairman of Ma’s Kuomintang party Hau Lung-Bin as decrying a “lack of self-confidence and goodwill” from current President Tsai Ing-wen.
The newly elected president was inaugurated on 20 May following a landslide victory over her Beijing-skeptic Democratic Progressive Party in the January elections.
The decision to prevent Ma from the Hong Kong trip was rooted in concerns about security in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. In Taiwan, senior officials are required to get approval for overseas travel within the three years after they have left office.
President Tsai’s Democratic Progressive party has been keen to emphasise Taiwan’s separate status. Cross-strait relations has thus been an increasingly sensitive topic since her inauguration. The decision regarding Ma’s visit to Hong Kong will no doubt fuel this flame. According to the FT, Bruce Jacobs, an expert on Taiwan at Monash University in Melbourne has said,
“Going to Hong Kong, which is part of China, is sensitive, so this could be caution on the part of the government… But it could also be [political] payback. We should be careful about making a sweeping conclusion.”
Currently, Tsai has been caught between her by radical supports who wish to see a more formal Taiwanese independence and the ever-powerful Chinese government, which has threatened invasion if Taiwan were to take this route.
The FT also cites a spokesman for Tsai’s presidential office which states that Ma was in command of a “substantial amount of classified information and Taiwan’s national security bureau had no precedent of working with its counterparts in Hong Kong”.
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