On January 7, 2017, protesters attempted to assault Joshua Wong, a prominent student activist from Hong Kong, as he arrived in Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport to speak on a political panel.
Mr. Wong was travelling to Taiwan with Hong Kong legislators Nathan Law, Edward Yiu, and Eddie Chu to attend a two-day political forum reportedly aimed at linking democracy movements in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The forum was organized by Taiwan’s New Power Party (NPP), a growing political group advocating for recognition of Taiwan as a nation and credited with preventing a trade pact with China. Mr. Wong is the secretary-general of Hong Kong’s Demosisto Party and is known for his role as a student leader during the 2014 Hong Kong democracy protests which called for the free democratic election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and criticized a proposed electoral reform bill. He reportedly last visited Taiwan in 2016 for an exchange with local political parties.
Upon landing in Taiwan on January 7, just after midnight, Mr. Wong and his delegation were met by an estimated 200 protestors from a pro-China group in the airport’s arrival hall. They held signs and chanted slogans criticizing Mr. Wong and the legislators accompanying him. Almost 100 police officers reportedly held a line between the men and the protestors; however, one protestor reportedly broke through the line and attempted to punch Mr. Wong, who was then hurried into a vehicle. Mr. Wong and his delegation were subsequently put under police protection for the remainder of the weekend. Eight people have reportedly been arrested in connection with the attempted attack.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about an attempted attack on a university student, apparently in retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of association – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such attacks have a chilling effect on academic freedom and free expression. State authorities have a responsibility to deter future attacks by investigating incidents and making every effort to hold perpetrators accountable.