TAIPEI: Taiwan has expelled a Chinese tourist for damaging a “Lennon Wall” that was put up in support of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, a move likely to irk Beijing.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have put up Lennon Walls, covered with colourful sticky notes, posters and slogans, across the city, and they have been set up in Taiwan too – mostly at university campuses.
There has been widespread support in Taiwan for the unprecedented protests that have shaken semi-autonomous Hong Kong for four months, but Beijing supporters have targeted rallies and installations backing the movement.
A Chinese visitor, identified as Li Shaodong, was deported late Tuesday for engaging in “criminal activities” after he was caught tearing up posters from a Lennon Wall on a university campus in Taipei on Monday, the National Immigration Agency said.
“Our government will not tolerate any illegal behaviour that damages democracy and freedom with vicious intentions,” it added in a statement.
He is now barred from visiting Taiwan for five years. This is believed to be the first deportation from Taiwan linked to the Hong Kong protests.
Taiwan has ruled itself since the end of a civil war in 1949, but China views the island as its territory and has vowed to seize it – by force if necessary.
Relations between the two sides have plummeted since President Tsai Ing-wen’s election in 2016 as her government refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of “one China”.
She has warned against any attempt to “provoke Taiwan’s democracy and the rule of law”, saying mainland Chinese who attack Hong Kongers or damage Lennon Walls will be barred from entering Taiwan.
Tsai has also pledged to assist Hong Kongers facing prosecution for involvement in anti-government protests who seek sanctuary in Taiwan, sparking a rebuke from Beijing to “stop meddling” in the affairs of the city, which was handed back to Beijing by Britain in 1997.
A Hong Kong solidarity rally was held in Taiwan last month.
It was largely peaceful, but Hong Kong pop star Denise Ho – a staunch democracy advocate – had red paint thrown at her by an unidentified assailant as she spoke to local media.