SCMP: The Taiwanese sending protest equipment, messages of solidarity to Hong Kong demonstrators

Some in Taiwan may find it strange that crowds of Hongkongers flew to their island to observe the presidential poll, attend campaign rallies and join locals in celebrating the re-election of Tsai Ing-wen.

But it is not all one-way traffic. In Taipei, a church, book stores and cafes are lending their support to anti-government protesters 700km away in Hong Kong.

One of the movement’s biggest backers in Taiwan is the Chi-Nan Presbyterian Church, which has set up a “Lennon Wall” with a huge banner bearing the words “Safeguard freedom, let’s add oil with Hong Kong”.

Equipment worth about US$530,000 (HK$4.1 million) including gas masks, helmets, air filters, ice packs and alcohol wipes has been gathered by the church. At its peak, it collected 800 helmets in a single week.

Some of that has been distributed by the church itself while the rest has been sent to Hong Kong through different channels.

The church has also offered humanitarian assistance to 200 protesters who have fled to Taiwan, including a couple whose story has touched Kong.

Fearing arrest and needing a break from the chaos in Hong Kong, they visited the self-ruled island twice, Kong recalled.

“What is happening in Hong Kong is like what happened in Taiwan during the times of white terror,” he said. “We experienced such kinds of institutional violence 70 years ago.”

Kong said Hong Kong protesters who fled to Taiwan found themselves in a similar situation to that faced by dissidents during the white terror, when political persecution prevented many from returning home.

Driven by those memories, he revealed the church was considering setting up a foundation or a non-governmental organisation to help Hongkongers, in a move he said would replicate American and European assistance for the island’s white terror victims in the last century.

Philo Cafe in Taipei, co-founded by a few local NGOs, has put up a sign at the entrance saying “Stand with HK”.

As a cafe selling books on philosophy, social movement and justice, its owners have hosted seminars and an exhibition on Hong Kong’s anti-government movement, inviting guests from the city.

Son said: “Most Taiwan people support the movement in Hong Kong, as we share the same faith: our belief in pursuing freedoms and democracy.

A bookstore called Poetry in Life, which is also in Taipei, has put up donation boxes to raise funds for protesters in Hong Kong.

The shop was founded by Hong Kong poet Luk Wing-yu, whose husband Liu Gi, 40, is Taiwanese and works in the publishing industry.

Liu said: “As some Hongkongers know about my shop, they send us products supporting the movement for sale towards charity.

“In the past, Hong Kong was a lighthouse to us as we had no freedoms to publish certain books. But it seems the situation has reversed.”

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