Pro-China protesters waving placards reading “Independence will get you nowhere” greeted Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and three rebel lawmakers as they arrived in Taipei Saturday.
Wong, along with Hong Kong legislators Nathan Law, Eddie Chu, and Edward Yiu, is attending a political forum hosted by Taiwan’s New Power Party (NPP), which is advocating for recognition of Taiwan as a nation.
The two-day event aimed at linking democracy movements in Hong Kong and Taiwan has provoked a hostile reception from pro-unification groups on the island over what they see as a joint independence movement.
Television footage showed a scuffle when one of the more than 200 protesters at the Taipei airport broke through the police line and attempted to throw a punch at the Hong Kong activists.
Around 50 pro-China protesters also gathered at Hong Kong’s airport for Wong’s departure.
“This really is a bit outrageous,” Wong said of the reception in Taiwan.
Wong led massive pro-democracy rallies in Hong Kong in 2014 bringing tens of thousands onto the streets calling for reform amid concern that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.
The city’s government recently launched a legal bid to unseat a number of pro-democracy lawmakers including Law, the youngest ever legislator in Hong Kong.
Beijing has also been ratcheting up pressure on democratically-elected Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and her Beijing-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party, which has refused to acknowledge the concept there is only “one China.”
The two sides split in 1949 after a civil war and Taiwan has been a self-governed island since. However, Beijing still sees it part of its territory to be brought back into its fold.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office last month denounced this weekend’s forum as a collusion between independence advocates that is doomed to fail.
The NPP emerged from a 2014 student occupation of Taiwan’s parliament protesting a trade deal with China that known as the Sunflower movement.
Its most well-known politician is death-metal rocker Freddy Lim, who unseated a veteran lawmaker to win a seat in January’s election.
“Rather than attempting to suppress democracy in Taiwan and Hong Kong, we hope the Beijing government can spend the time to consider democratisation of its domestic society,” said NPP’s Huang Kuo-chang at the forum.