Tuesday last week marked the 17th anniversary of Hong Kong’s “return” to Chinese rule, but most people in Hong Kong have long ceased to believe Beijing’s promise that the territory’s system would remain unchanged for 50 years. Under Beijing’s control, the atmosphere in Hong Kong is getting more and more stifling. On the day of the anniversary, civic groups organized a protest march. The assembly point — Victoria Park — was packed, with crowds filling a space equal to six soccer pitches for a time, and there was hardly room to move in nearby subway stations.
In the run-up to the anniversary, the civic group Occupy Central with Love and Peace organized an unofficial referendum on how Hong Kong’s chief executive should be selected. Shortly before the referendum was launched, the Chinese government published a white paper that emphasized its full control over Hong Kong. This threat caused such indignation that nearly 800,000 Hong Kongers felt compelled to vote in the referendum.
On July 1, Hong Kongers once more took action to tell the world that they want real general elections to choose Hong Kong’s chief executive and members of the Legislative Council. They want genuine autonomy, and they do not want to be made more and more like the rest of China — the “interior” — which is what Beijing, along with China-friendly political and business interest groups in Hong Kong, has been trying to make happen. It goes without saying that Hong Kong people now face a tough battle to attain greater democracy.
Taiwan is different from Hong Kong, but the Chinese dictatorship harbors the same ambition of swallowing both territories. In recent years, the political, business and population structures of both Hong Kong and Taiwan have been drawn more and more into China’s sphere.
In Hong Kong, the crisis of its domination by the “interior” is getting more and more serious. As to Taiwan, under the China-friendly policies of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government, the crisis takes the form of a slide from “one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait” toward “one country, two areas.” Such a development would have been unimaginable six years ago.
This is why some civic groups and opposition figures in Taiwan, while opposing the convergence between Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party, have also been voicing their support for Hong Kongers’ demand for direct elections for the chief executive and legislators.
Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), one of the leaders of the Sunflower protest movement and cofounder of the new civic group Taiwan March (島國前進), flew to Hong Kong to support the July 1 demonstration, but he was refused entry and sent back to Taiwan. By rejecting Chen, Hong Kong authorities showed how fearful they are that Hong Kong residents might learn from Taiwan’s democratic experience.
Taiwanese politicians’ varying reactions to Hong Kongers’ attempts to win greater democracy — from the unofficial referendum to the July 1 demonstration — reflect their varying degrees of dependence on and opposition to China’s dictatorial regime.
The Ma administration warmly welcomed China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) during his recent visit to Taiwan. While oblivious to the fact that Zhang is an official of a country that covets sovereignty over Taiwan, the Ma government accused protesters who want to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty as violent.