In Taiwanese eyes, these trends in Hong Kong are surprising and yet somehow familiar.
First, apart from the fact that Taiwan has fortunately not yet “returned” to China, Taiwanese observers are sure to reject the prospect of “one China, two systems” even more roundly after seeing how it has worked out in Hong Kong, and to be very circumspect about interactions across the Taiwan Strait.
Will the Hong Kong of today be the Taiwan of tomorrow?
If people in Hong Kong are seeking independence, why should people in Taiwan aim for unification?
While Taiwan still has the ability to say no, would it not be wise to keep China at arm’s length?
Second, Hong Kongers have been turning their heartfelt regrets aspirations toward the nation, because unlike Hong Kong, Taiwan is still able to govern itself and remains a democracy.
This “Taiwan craze” has many aspects. Taiwan-made films are popular in Hong Kong theaters, Taiwanese entertainers like rock group Mayday (五月天) are very popular there, Hong Kongers like Taiwanese food and Taiwan’s Eslite bookstore has opened a branch in Hong Kong.
Taiwan registered more than 1 million arrivals from Hong Kong last year. More students from Hong Kong and Macau are pursuing their studies in Taiwan, and many Hong Kongers plan to live in Taiwan after they retire.
Third, Beijing is worried about Taipei’s relationship with Hong Kong moving from business and trade to politics.
In September last year, 100 Hong Kongers, including pan-democrat lawmakers Gary Fan (范國威) and Claudia Mo (毛孟靜), placed an advertisement in Taiwanese and Hong Kong media outlets that accused Chinese tourists and immigrants of wreaking havoc on Hong Kong and advising Taiwan to learn a lesson from what has happened there.
On Tuesday last week, the Beijing-based Global Times published a prominent critique of what it called “the confluence of Hong Kong and Taiwan independence movements.”
The article said that Hong Kong’s Democratic Party had invited Chien Hsi-chieh (簡錫堦), who served as deputy director of Taiwan’s “red shirts” during their campaign to oust then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in 2006 and whom the Global Times called a “Taiwan independence element,” to offer guidance on protest methods.
The Chinese government would be wiser to handle the question of Hong Kong more cautiously.
Hong Kong’s average per capita income exceeds US$40,000 and its people are highly educated, so it clearly has the necessary conditions to implement democracy. If Hong Kongers could choose their chief executive through direct elections rather than having “birdcage” restrictions imposed, it would be a successful test case for democracy in China. If Hong Kong’s dream of democracy became a reality, it would be an affirmation of its “China dream,” so Beijing should not obstruct it.
If China and Hong Kong cannot each give way a little, there will never be a day without some kind of friction or disturbance, and a vicious circle will ensue. The more Beijing tries to suppress Hong Kong, the more of a backlash there will be from the people who live there. The Chinese government may eventually refuse to make any more concessions to Hong Kong as a warning to others and let Shanghai take Hong Kong’s place.