Whether or not they genuinely seek Hong Kong’s secession from China, the vocal activists of the Hong Kong City-State Autonomy Movement certainly know how to push Beijing’s buttons. China has always been obsessive about keeping itself intact – witness its vitriol over “splittist” Tibetans and Uygurs; and when predominantly Han Chinese regions such as Taiwan (and now possibly Hong Kong) reject the motherland, all hell breaks loose.

Once upon a time, however, mainland China forced Taiwan to break away and form an independent state. When Taiwan was ceded to Japan in May 1895, following China’s defeat in the Sino- Japanese war, the people of Taiwan were outraged. After repeated entreaties to the Qing dynasty government to retract the humiliating order failed, officials and local gentry in Taiwan declared the island’s independence on May 23.

The Qing governor, Tang Jingsong, became president of the new Taiwan Minzhuguo (“Democratic State of Taiwan”, also known as the Republic of Formosa, and the Taiwan Republic). The new country  had its own flag (a yellow tiger on a blue background) and its own state seal. It even issued its own postage stamps and government  bonds. On June 3, the Japanese landed near Taipei and decimated the republic’s army. The ragtag republic then set up shop in Tainan, holding out until October, when the Japanese put an end to its misery. Taiwan Minzhuguo lasted a total of 140 days.