TAIPEI, Taiwan—The attack against Hong Kong singer and activist Denise Ho on Sept. 29, when she was splattered with red paint while speaking to media at a local rally in support of Hong Kong protesters, is suspected of being orchestrated by local members of a pro-Beijing political party.
The party is part of Beijing’s “united front” of organizations that seek to spread the Chinese regime’s agenda overseas.
Ho was in Taipei to take part in a local rally on Sept. 29 that was part of a coordinated day of global protests in more than 60 cities worldwide to denounce “Chinese tyranny.” The global effort was also aimed at showing solidarity with protesters in Hong Kong, where locals have staged mass protests for 17 straight weeks against Beijing’s encroachment on city affairs.
The attackers have been arrested on the spot, and have been identified as Hu Zhi Wai (胡志偉）and Liang Tai Fu (梁太富).
— Denise Ho (HOCC) (@hoccgoomusic) September 29, 2019
While Ho was speaking to media at the rally, a masked man, who disguised himself as a supporter of Hong Kong protests by donning a yellow helmet with the words “anti-extradition” written on it—in reference to Hongkongers’ opposition to a controversial extradition bill—suddenly poured red paint over Ho’s head.
The masked man was quickly surrounded by nearby rally participants before he could flee. Local police officers who were on-site to safeguard the rally quickly arrived to arrest the attacker.
The assailant has since been identified as Hu Chih-wai, 44, chairman of the local pro-Beijing Chinese Unification Promotion Party (CUPP), also known as the Unionist Party, whose leader, Chang An-lo, is an infamous local mafia boss who advocates for Taiwan’s capitulation to China.
Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province despite the fact that the island is a de-facto independent country with democratically-elected officials and a separate military. It has continually threatened use of force to unite the island with the mainland.
Another member of CUPP, Liang Tai-fu, 54, was also arrested at the rally, on suspicion of being an accomplice in the attack.
“For this to happen in Taiwan is totally infuriating, as TW has been known as one of the safest place in Asia,” Ho wrote on Twitter after the attack.
She added: “The powerful machine of the United Front is surfacing in the ugliest way possible. Not only is this happening in #HK and TW, but also everywhere around the world.”
For this to happen in Taiwan is totally infuriating, as TW has been known as one of the safest place in Asia.
The powerful machine of the United Front is surfacing in the ugliest way possible. Not only is this happening in #HK and TW, but also everywhere around the world.
— Denise Ho (HOCC) (@hoccgoomusic) September 29, 2019
Before returning to Hong Kong, Ho took to her Facebook page, saying she will press charges such as intimidation and insult against the two attackers.
She added: “In an era of totalitarianism totally infiltrated by the ‘united front,’ people who believe in justice cannot retreat. They can only persist in their fight.”
According to local media, the Taipei District Prosecutor’s Office, after interrogating Hu and Liang, has decided that the two remain in custody and held incommunicado, on six charges including intimidation and insult.
On Sept. 30, seven other suspects were also arrested by local police on suspicion of being accomplices to the attack.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was among a group of Taiwanese officials who issued condemnations against the attack on Ho.
“This is the land of freedom and civilized manners; it is not a territory overrun by totalitarianism. Do not try to challenge democracy and rule of law in Taiwan. We will not allow such behavior to continue to happen in Taiwan,” wrote Tsai on her Facebook page.
Taiwan’s National Police Agency Director-General Chen Ja-chin held a press conference after the attack. Chen said that there would be a thorough investigation, to determine whether the attack was related to organized crime.
What happened to Denise Ho @hoccgoomusic (何韻詩) today was an assault on Taiwan's democracy and can happen to anyone who speaks up for fundamental freedoms. We must continue to stand strong with freedom fighters in Hong Kong to fight back against anti-democratic forces. https://t.co/zt4Kg6ANx4
— 王定宇 Wang Ting-yu MP (@MPWangTingyu) September 29, 2019
China’s state-run media, meanwhile, voiced its support for the attackers. According to China’s hawkish state-run daily Global Times, Tian Feilong, an associate professor at Beihang University in Beijing, was quoted as saying that the action of the Unionist Party was “understandable,” and called the attackers “Chinese patriots.”
Taiwanese lawmaker Wang Ting-yu took to his Facebook page to call on local prosecutors to seek out those responsible for the attack.
Wang also issued a warning to locals, saying that Beijing’s pawns in Taiwan are likely to carry out similar attacks against Taiwanese in the future, if the island were to be accept Chinese rule under “one country, two systems,” the framework currently in place in Hong Kong after the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping has suggested bringing Taiwan under Beijing’s fold under “one country, two systems.”
China’s United Front
China’s “united front” efforts mainly involve overseas operations to persuade organizations or individuals to spread the Party’s propaganda in different locales. The executive CCP agency behind these operations is the United Front Work Department.
Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the United States have all been targets of Beijing’s united front efforts.
#CUPP also has hd dealings w/ #HKSAR #CCP-based violent #unitedfront grps like #CaringHongKongPower & some #CGLO-connected taxi-thugs who attacked #HK #democracy/#Umbrella activists at Taipei & #HKIA airports a couple yrs back. CHKP's #SumChan here also connected 2 SAR politicos. https://t.co/mTZrBNDnNg pic.twitter.com/DVKpieL3Ih
— Dan Garrett (@DanGarrett97) September 30, 2019
Most recently, on Sept. 17, Daniel Garret, author and academic on Hong Kong affairs, dedicated a portion of his testimony before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) about China’s united front campaign concerning the Hong Kong protests.
Garret pointed out that the Party has mobilized local united front groups in Hong Kong to attack protesters and marshal support for the Hong Kong government and police. The protesters have been labeled “counterrevolutionaries,” “extremists,” “separatists,” and “terrorists” in Chinese state media, stoking those pro-Beijing groups’ sentiments.
In an August 2018 report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), Michael Cole, a Taiwan expert and former Canadian intelligence official, identified the threat of united front activities in Taiwan.
“United Front operations have involved sponsorship of organized crime to destabilize society and meddle in politics, which intend ‘to turn Taiwan’s democracy against itself,’” the report stated, quoting Cole.
Russell Hsiao, executive director of the U.S.-based think tank Global Taiwan Initiative, in a testimony before the USCC in April 2018, warned of the implications for U.S.-Taiwan ties.
“Beijing uses United Front activities to weaken Taiwan’s relationship with the United States—its principal security partner—by exacerbating tensions within Taiwan’s society thereby leading to greater polarization and less national cohesion,” Hsiao stated.
The United States considers Taiwan a key ally in the Indo-Pacific region.