Beijing has barred three Taiwanese political figures from attending a forum in Hong Kong, according to event organizers.
Representatives of the CS Culture Foundation, a prominent Hong Kong-based organizer of cross-strait forums, said the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong announced Tuesday that three speakers would be denied entry to the city.
One of the scheduled speakers, Yang Wei-chung, a former spokesman for the Kuomintang party, said he was denied a visa at the last minute, even though it had been approved.
The two other speakers — political scientist Fan Shih-ping, who was a member of a consultative committee of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, and lawmaker Kuo Jeng-liang, a member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party — described last-minute denials that came without explanation.
Susie Chiang Su-hui, chairwoman of the CS Culture Foundation, said Beijing officials told her Yang's involvement with a government committee tasked with investigating assets of Taiwan’s pro-mainland China party made him an “inappropriate” selection as guest speaker.
The other two speakers, Chiang said, were rejected based on prior expressions of support for Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's Democratic Progressive Party.
“I had thought Hong Kong is ruled by the people of Hong Kong, and they enjoy a high degree of autonomy," Yang posted on Facebook in response to the situation, expressing hope that the ban would be lifted quickly. He also vowed the ban would not force him to "change words and deeds."
While Chiang said Beijing officials hadn't said whether the ban represented a new policy or how long it would be implemented, reports from Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office indicated the ban was set to apply to anyone officially associated with Tsai's DPP.
The biannual forum on cross-strait relations has always included politicians and scholars from both major Taiwanese parties, Chiang said. Even during the administration of former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, a leading advocate of Taiwanese independence, no speakers were denied entry, she added.
No comment on 'individual cases'
At a Tuesday news conference, a Hong Kong government spokesman refused to address the banning of the three speakers, saying he could not comment on “individual cases.”
Last week, amid rumors that Taiwanese legislator Hung Tzu-yung was planning to visit, a government official said “advocates for Taiwan independence are not welcome.”
Hung's New Power Party, which emerged from Taiwan's 2014 Sunflower Student Movement, advocates Taiwan independence along with a range of civil and political liberties.
Chou Yung-hong, former deputy director of Taipei's DPP propaganda unit, told VOA on Wednesday that he could not say whether the ban indicated a deterioration of the cross-strait relations, but he said that "it is not helpful to resolving the impasse."
“The forum intends to find a way to break the deadlock, but Beijing won’t even let them go to Hong Kong, which is the basic step and the precondition," said Chou, who blamed Beijing for creating the deadlock by asking Taiwan to abide by the “1992 consensus,” which DPP officials reject.
Taiwan's Wu Shi-huai, a retired deputy army general, told VOA the ban's impact on cross-strait relations was apparent, but that he did not expect Beijing to impose a “total block” on DPP officials.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Mandarin service.