The Past month has seen vigorous development in student-led social movements in Taiwan and Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, 15-year-old high-school student Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) organized the Scholarism movement as a protest against the government’s forceful promotion of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its attempts to make the CCP look good. The government is doing this through the education system, ignoring the June 4 movement and other major historical incidents. In Taiwan, an anti-media monopoly alliance organized by National Taiwan University Student Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), National Tsing Hwa University student Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) and National Cheng Kung University student Chang Chih-ling (張芷菱) are organizing continuous protest activities against the Want Want China Times Group. Having gained support from all sectors of society, on Sept. 1 they mobilized almost 10,000 people in a street demonstration.
These two movements have appeared at approximately the same time and both are in effect taking aim at the same target. Hong Kong’s educational policies are directed by Beijing from behind the scenes, while the Taiwanese students’ warning to the Want Want China Times group is in fact also a warning about possible future events as the China factor is entering Taiwan.
In other words, it is the China — or, rather, the CCP — factor that has set off these movements. The similarity in timing and target is no coincidence. It reflects the clash between and opposition to one model of social development represented by the CCP and another represented by the civil societies in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The social development model represented by the CCP can be called “the Chinese model”: it focuses on economic development and suppresses everything else, expanding economic strength by sacrificing democracy and freedom. The social development model for civil society in Hong Kong and Taiwan, on the other hand, makes public dignity and freedom, social justice and tolerance the goal of economic development. The definition of “happiness” is very different in these two models.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China. The difference this year is that Hong Kong has expressed its strongest discontent with China since 2003 and surveys in Hong Kong show the lowest numbers ever of people identifying as Chinese.
In Taiwan’s presidential election in January, China openly interfered via Taiwanese businesspeople in China and pro-Chinese media outlets. Taiwan is already showing signs of developing in the same direction as Hong Kong. Everyone is feeling these changes, and both Hong Kong and Taiwan are becoming increasingly affected by restrictions imposed by China. This is making the clash between the two models increasingly obvious.
One of the reasons for this is that the “one country, two systems” for Hong Kong in effect has been abandoned. The CCP is in a rush to thoroughly integrate Hong Kong with China and is deliberately tying it closer to the mainland. In Taiwan, the cross-strait peace policy pursued by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration is bringing China and Taiwan ever closer to each other. However, precisely because Hong Kong and Taiwan are moving closer to China, their civil societies are now able to see through the Chinese model and the heavy price Chinese society has to pay for China’s rapid economic development. I call this phenomenon “increased alienation through increased proximity.” This is the fundamental reason why social movements opposed to the CCP factor have arisen almost simultaneously in Taiwan and Hong Kong.