Chinese authorities have arrested at least 10 people after intercepting a boat believed to be heading to Taiwan from Hong Kong, local reports say.
China’s coastguard said the arrests were made on Sunday morning off the southern province of Guangdong, near Hong Kong.
Hong Kong media reports said those on board the vessel were trying to reach Taiwan to claim political asylum.
The reports said Hong Kong activist Andy Li was among those detained.
Mr Li, who was arrested earlier this month for alleged collusion with foreign forces and money laundering, was detained on suspicion of “unlawfully crossing the border”, the South China Morning Post reported, citing police sources.
It was not immediately clear what those now in custody might be charged with. Attempts by people from Hong Kong to flee the territory by boat are considered to be rare.
Earlier Hong Kong police have arrested 16 people, including two opposition politicians, on charges related to anti-government protests last year.
Since the start of the protests in June 2019, Hong Kong police have made more than 9,000 arrests.
Taiwan’s president has signalled that China’s imposition of tough new national security laws on Hong Kong is one of the most serious challenges facing her people.
In an address to ASPI’s Indo-Pacific Leaders Dialogue, President Tsai Ing-wen said Beijing’s view of ‘one country, two systems’ was not acceptable to the people of Taiwan, especially in light of the developments they’d witnessed in Hong Kong.
‘We are a country with a very vibrant democracy, and the PRC has no jurisdiction over Taiwan. Our citizens enjoy full political rights, and we reject any attempts to downgrade Taiwan.’
Tsai said Taiwan was committed to maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. ‘I’m sure that this has not gone unnoticed by the international community’, she said.
Asked if Taiwan was pursuing independence from mainland China, or if reunification was possible, Tsai replied, ‘Taiwan is Taiwan. Our existence simply cannot be questioned. We have our own government, we have free elections, and our people can choose their own leaders. We have our own military and own democratic institutions, none of which have ever been under Beijing’s jurisdiction.’
She said Taiwan’s future would be decided by its people.