World News

Taiwan church collects more than 4,000 gas masks to send to HK protesters

TAIPEI (Reuters) - A church in Taiwan said on Wednesday it had collected more than 4,000 gas masks and 600 helmets to send to anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, saying the fight for democracy was crucial in the face of increased meddling by Beijing.

Che-lam Presbyterian Church in Taipei said it had experimented with donations which had to comply with aviation safety rules and found that construction-type helmets and gas masks arrived in Hong Kong without a problem, while a shipment of laser pointers was blocked.

Hong Kong has been rocked for more than three months by sometimes violent protests, with activists throwing petrol bombs at police and shining lasers in their eyes, to which police have responded with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets.

“I think that the Hong Kong of today might be the Taiwan of tomorrow,” said church administrative assistant Alex Ko.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own and has vowed to bring the island under its control, by force if necessary.

“No matter if in Taiwan or Hong Kong, we all must not forget that Beijing authorities don’t care about human rights and reasons,” Ko said. “We must not have any faith in them. We have to make ourselves stronger and make friends with the world to face this problem together.”

The Hong Kong protesters are furious at what they see as creeping Chinese interference in the former British colony, which returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula guaranteeing freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland for 50 years.

China says it is committed to the arrangement and denies meddling. It has also suggested the same formula for Taiwan, which it considers a recalcitrant, breakaway province.

“If Taiwan doesn’t care about its democracy and its freedom and sacrifices its own future to do business in China, I think it is very likely that Taiwan will find itself in a similar situation,” Ko said.

Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Bernadette Baum