Senior figures in Hong Kong have pointed the finger at Taiwan and blamed “agitators” from that country for being behind the protests that have crippled the former British colony.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor suggested in a speech on August 5 that the rallies against the extradition bill were instigated by Taiwan and the US to ferment revolution against Beijing’s sovereignty over the territory.

Lam’s predecessor Tung Chee-hwa also alleged that US and Taiwanese agitators had a direct hand in the current chaos in Hong Kong.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen instructed Taiwan’s representative office in Hong Kong to lodge a formal complaint “against Lam and Tung’s smear,” stressing that the many Taiwanese expats and companies in Hong Kong justified Taiwan’s concerns for the city’s freedoms and liberty.

Despite Lam’s obstinacy and what is seen by many as the Hong Kong police’s brutal clampdown, the drawn-out protests have morphed into decentralized hit-and-run games in almost all districts, with young demonstrators making the rounds of police stations and government offices to stretch and thin out the police’s manpower.

Most newspapers in Taiwan, while slamming Lam for skulking away from her responsibility and not addressing the issues raised by the public, have praised the tactics of the protesters, hailing them as “a model for urban guerrillas in the modern era.”

The Liberty Times and its sister publication the Taipei Times, both wide-read broadsheets known for their pro-independence stance, noted that Beijing and the Hong Kong government had only themselves to blame for the escalation of force by some fanatics when the demands of the people had been brushed aside.

A protester throws a water bottle at police during a general strike in Hong Kong on August 5, 2019. Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace
Protesters temporarily block a main road in the tourist and shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

“Any struggle against a strong power must adopt a guerrilla approach to provide protection and minimize harm. Hong Kong protesters use guerrilla attacks to target important political landmarks, thoroughfares and areas that the police cannot easily defend … The [government’s] constantly intensifying suppression will trigger even more intense opposition, which will only add to the instability,” said one of the newspapers.

Another op-ed urged Taiwanese to learn from what had been going on in Hong Kong as a lesson for the self-ruled island. “If the [Beijing-friendly] Kuomintang party were to return to power after the January presidential election or even the Chinese army were to invade, Taiwanese might have to emulate the same approach and tactics [in fighting the KMT government and the Chinese invaders],” read the piece.

Observers also say Beijing should be wary of overreacting to events in Hong Kong for the sake of its most important goal – unification with the “renegade province” of Taiwan, when the long-term viability of the “one country, two systems” plan, originally broached for Taiwan, was being questioned.

Taiwanese in a pro-Hong Kong rally in Taipei. Photo: Facebook

An analysis by Bloomberg noted that Taiwan was helping Hong Kong avoid a repeat of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, for now. It said Beijing’s imperative to bring the island back to its fold means it may avoid a troop deployment in the city, fearing fanning an even stronger independence movement in Taiwan as its residents see their future being foreshadowed by events unfolding in the former British territory.

On Sunday, Taiwan became the latest in a growing list of countries to have issued travel alerts about the turmoil in Hong Kong.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council and the island’s de-facto consulate in the city have reminded residents heading for the city or transiting via the city that they should avoid going to demonstration-hit areas, including the city’s airport that has been occupied by protesters. The warning said violent clashes or even bloodshed would become more likely in the evenings and on weekends.