Former Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou has personally responded to the Taiwan Presidential Office’s rejection of his application to visit Hong Kong.

The decision had already resulted in public debate, he told reporters from Taiwan’s Central News Agency on Monday morning. “Was this decision necessary, and was it fair? Was it reasonable? People across the whole country are watching, and I’m sure the public will make their own comments.”

Ma Ying-jeou addresses Taiwanese media while out for exercise. Photo: CNA video screenshot.

Ma’s application to visit Hong Kong to deliver a speech at the Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards ceremony on Wednesday was turned down by Taiwan’s Presidential Office on Sunday. The office cited several reasons for the rejection, including that Hong Kong is an area of concern in relation to Taiwan’s national security, and that the office has yet to verify what classified information Ma had access to. Taiwanese regulations mean that former officials with access to classified information face travel restrictions for three years after leaving office.

Ma’s office responded to the decision on Sunday evening by saying that it was “disrespectful to the former leader” and it will harm Taiwan’s international image as a free, democratic country.

The former president will address cross-strait relations, his meeting with Xi Jinping in November and increasing tensions in the South China Sea in his keynote speech, according to an announcement from SOPA.

A press release from SOPA published Sunday night said they are disappointed that Ma could not attend in person but that they will arrange for him to give his address through a video link.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.