TAIPEI: Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was under police protection in Taiwan after a failed assault attempt by a pro-China protester on Saturday (Jan 7), local media reported.
Wong, along with Hong Kong legislators Nathan Law, Eddie Chu, and Edward Yiu, was 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 provoked a hostile reception from pro-unification groups on the island over what they see as a joint independence movement.
Around 200 pro-China protesters had gathered at the airport's arrivals hall, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP). They reportedly chanted slogans about Wong as well as the Hong Kong lawmakers and said they were not welcome in Taiwan. One of them reportedly broke through police lines and tried to punch Wong, who was rushed into a police vehicle, reported SCMP.
Around 50 pro-China protesters also gathered at Hong Kong's airport for Wong's departure.
“I wasn’t expecting [pro-China protesters to show up], be it in Hong Kong or Taiwan,” said Wong during the forum on Saturday afternoon. He said that it was the first time he had encountered such protests in Taiwan, having visited the island last year, reported SCMP.
Protesters also demonstrated outside the venue of the forum, voicing their opposition to the collusion of "independence scum from Taiwan and Hong Kong", according to SCMP.
Wong and the other lawmakers would be under police protection throughout their stay, a police inspector said according to SCMP.
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 was 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.