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Taiwan replaces HK as Asia's bastion of free speech: NY Times

2018/04/15 17:04:47

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Taipei, April 15 (CNA) Taiwan has replaced Hong Kong as Asia's "bastion of free speech," as it has emerged as "one of Asia's most vibrant democracies," according to a New York Times article published on April 14.

Entitled "Asia's Bastion of Free Speech? Move Aside, Hong Kong, It's Taiwan Now," the article by Chris Horton in Taipei and Austin Ramzy in Hong Kong said Hong Kong used to be a haven for political fugitives and home to international media and rights groups in the Chinese-speaking world.

"In recent years, however, as Beijing has tightened its grip on the former colony, Hong Kong has been increasingly supplanted by Taiwan," the article said.

The shift was seen when Reporters Without Borders announced it would open its first Asian bureau in Taiwan's capital city Taipei after considering but rejecting Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong was originally the first choice for the Asia bureau," said Wu'er Kaixi (吾爾開希), an emeritus member of the group's board, and a student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen protests who escaped from China via Hong Kong.

"But today China doesn't just suppress its own people, it is now increasingly exporting that suppression to Hong Kong," Wu'er was quoted as saying in the story.

The shift reflects the increasingly authoritarian efforts of President Xi Jinping to assert his control over China, including Hong Kong.

In 2016, China's abducted five Hong Kong-based publishers of critical books about Chinese leaders, and one of the five, Lam Wing-kee (林榮基), is now planning to reopen his bookshop in Taiwan.

"We Hong Kong people look to Taiwan for lessons," Lam was quoted as saying by the New York Times. "And people in Taiwan look to see how the Chinese mainland controls Hong Kong."

Cédric Alviani, the Taipei bureau director of Reporters Without Borders, said Taiwan has since become an "island of stability" in a region where press freedoms were backsliding, the article said.

It also noted, however, that while Taiwan is relishing its new reputation, there have also been instances when Taiwan has appeared to compromise on its political values to avoid angering Beijing.

Some Chinese say it is also getting harder for mainland activists to enter Taiwan to attend workshops or conferences.

Zhao Sile (趙思樂), a Chinese journalist and author who writes about civil society in China, said Chinese activists have told her that it has become more difficult in the past two years to obtain visas from Taiwan, according to the article.

(By Joseph Yeh)