Taipei (AFP)

American journalists recently deported from China are welcome in Taiwan, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Saturday as the island presents itself as a regional haven for freedom of expression.

Beijing ordered the expulsion of 13 journalists from the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal in early March, amid mounting tensions with the United States.

The Beijing order stipulated that the expelled journalists would not be allowed to work in Hong Kong, while this semi-autonomous territory is supposed to make its own immigration decisions.

On Saturday, Joseph Wu tweeted that American journalists would be warmly welcomed if they moved to Taiwan.

"I would like to welcome you to Taiwan - a country that is a beacon of freedom and democracy," said Wu.

"You will find people here who will welcome you with open arms and with many sincere smiles," he added.

Previously a brutal autocratic regime, the island has become one of the freest societies in Asia over the past three decades. She regularly appears at the top of the rankings on media freedom in the region.

Taiwan and Beijing have lived separate destinies since the Communists 70 years ago proclaimed the People's Republic of China when the nationalists of Chiang Kai-shek withdrew to the island.

Relations between the two sides of the strait have tightened again since the coming to power in Taiwan in 2016 of Tsai Ing-wen, who refuses to accept the principle of a "single China" advanced by Beijing.

Communist China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to seize the autonomous island, by force if necessary.

© 2020 AFP