Do not attempt to separate Taiwan from China or commit secession on “Double Ten Day,” Hong Kong’s head of the Security Bureau warned in an interview published on Thursday.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang said in a Singtao Daily interview that he was aware that there might be “serious violations of the law” on October 10, the Taiwanese National Day.

Chris Tang
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security Chris Tang. File photo: Studio Incendo.

He said that, according to the constitution of China, Taiwan was a part of Chinese territory, and it is therefore illegal for anyone to attempt to split Taiwan from China, or incite others to do so.

Taiwan has been ruled by the Republic of China government since 1945 after Japan — which occupied the island for 50 years — was defeated in the Second World War. Though it has never governed the island, the People’s Republic of China claims that Taiwan is one of its provinces and does not recognise it as an independent country.

Celebrations of the Double Ten Day in Hong Kong date back to the days when the city was under British colonial rule, where people would display the Taiwanese flag. When asked if it will be illegal to display flags or chant slogans, Tang said that the government will deal with individual situations.

“If you really want to split Taiwan from China in your heart, we will definitely find evidence to prove what you’re thinking in your heart and what you’re doing,” said Tang. Secession is criminalised under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Taiwan flag
Photo: Taiwan Presidential Office, via Flickr.

The legislation, enacted in June last year, also outlawed subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure.

The secretary also said that celebrations of the day would be illegal dependent of the intention.

“Anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China is a serious crime, you first have to ask yourself clearly if you have this intention,” said Tang. “If you don’t have such intention, why are you celebrating this day?”

Last year, the “Red House” in Tuen Mun was cordoned off amid security law concerns. The building – also called Hung Lau – is thought to have housed China’s “founding father” Sun Yat-sen as he organised some dozen revolutionary attempts against the imperial Qing Dynasty. Previously, a Taiwan flag-raising ceremony has been held on the site.

Article 23 and colour revolution

In a separate interview with SCMP, Tang said that he expected “less of a backlash” against the legislation of Article 23 – local security legislation which was shelved by the government in 2003 amid mass protests.

National security law
A banner inside the Hong Kong government headquarters promoting the national security law. Photo: GovHK.

He also accused “state-level organisations” of starting a “colour revolution” in the city in 2019.

He claimed the demonstrations were “well organised,” referring to the supply of helmets, train tickets and white shirts for protesters and the alleged “cooperation” of foreign media. “This was by state-level organisations. A colour revolution could not be stirred up by just a few thugs. It is state-level activity. We do not have many laws to regulate such acts,” said Tang.

Tang was not pressed on what evidence the authorities had for claims of foreign involvement. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has also made such claims but admitted last year she had “no conclusive evidence.”

The government attempted to legislate Article 23 in 2002 and 2003, sparking a protest with a reported 500,000 headcount, and the resignation of then-secretary for security Regina Ip. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa also stepped down in 2005, before the end of his term.

The secretary said that the Security Bureau had been “studying the city’s latest situation and similar national security laws of other countries” and court judgements of recent national security law cases in preparation for the legislation.

Tang said he expected to complete legislating Article 23 in the next term of Hong Kong’s legislature.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.