Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said she would follow “humanitarian principles” in dealing with asylum seekers from Hong Kong, which has been roiled by pro-democracy protests.
Tsai made the comments after Radio Free Asia reported that more than a dozen protesters from Hong Kong have fled to Taiwan.
In response, China’s foreign ministry Friday accused Taiwan of exhibiting fake benevolence.
“We advise some people on the island not to jump out at this moment pretending to compassionate,” spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing. “They themselves are no more than clay Buddhas.” The moniker is an apparent reference to an old Chinese saying: When a clay Buddha attempts to cross a river, it can barely protect itself, let alone others.
Taiwan does not have a formal refugee policy, and any move to resettle Hong Kong protesters is likely to anger Beijing.
Hong Kong is a Chinese territory that has been rocked over the last month by massive protests against an extradition bill that would allow residents to be tried in mainland China. China also claims Taiwan as its territory, though the democratically governed island split from the Communist Party-ruled mainland amid civil war in 1949.
Tsai spoke to reporters during a visit this week to Saint Lucia, an eastern Caribbean island nation that is among Taiwan’s few remaining allies. Beijing has chipped away at Taiwan’s allies by making a break in diplomatic relations with Taiwan a prerequisite for establishing relations with China.
Germany granted asylum last year to two pro-democracy activists from Hong Kong.