During his long tenure as prime minister, Shinzo Abe deftly avoided overtures toward Taiwan that would jolt ties with China. Now, he’s joined the growing chorus of Japanese voices calling for greater support for the democratically ruled island.

The former prime minister was among a group of lawmakers who gathered in a large wood-paneled room in Tokyo last week for a video conference with counterparts from Taiwan and the U.S. to discuss shared concerns. Abe, who retains leadership of a key ruling party faction, said Japan couldn’t allow what happened in Hong Kong to befall Taiwan, according to broadcaster TBS.

Abe’s embrace of a more supportive policy toward Taipei is emblematic of a broader shift across the government in response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on Hong Kong and increased military activities in the Taiwan Strait. Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, a longtime Abe ally, sparked a rebuke from Beijing last month after he told a gathering that Japan would have to work with the U.S. to defend Taiwan in the event of a crisis.