Sun, Jul 07, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Taiwan, HK preview China’s future

By Joseph Bosco

The people of Hong Kong have demonstrated dramatically — and until Monday, nonviolently — that they reject Beijing’s heavy-handed tactics in eroding the territory’s autonomy guaranteed in the political handover of the British crown colony to the People’s Republic of China. Over the years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has engaged in a creeping reneging of those arrangements. When it changed the election laws in 2014, it triggered a citizen protest culminating in the “Umbrella movement.”

Since [then-Chinese leader] Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) announced the “one country, two systems” concept in 1984 as the model for Hong Kong and Taiwan, the people of Taiwan have taken an avid interest in what has been happening in the autonomous polity.

Already turned off by Beijing’s treatment of Chinese under its direct control, Taiwanese aversion to communist rule only deepened by what they saw happening in Hong Kong. They sympathized with the plight of the population and were impressed by their spirit of resistance. In a kind of whipsawing of democratic assertiveness, the people of Hong Kong were reciprocally inspired by Taiwan’s stand against China’s economic, diplomatic and military pressures as expressed in the 2014 Sunflower movement.

Taiwanese public opinion had been gradually turning against China ever since the Tiananmen Square Massacre exposed in the bloodiest way the despotic nature of that government. The fact that it was carried out by Deng, the leader who promised fair and decent treatment for the people of Hong Kong and Taiwan, undermined any potential attractiveness of the “one country, two systems” formula. On the contrary, for older Taiwanese, it revived painful memories of their own encounter with murderous government brutality in the White Terror and 228 Incident. Having rid themselves of an anti-communist dictatorship, they had no intention of throwing themselves into the arms of a communist one.

As the years rolled by, the numbers of people in Taiwan with ties to China steadily diminished as Taiwanese citizens were born. Public opinion polls reflected the changing demographics and the evolving attitudes — decreasing percentages identified themselves as Chinese, with more opting instead for Taiwanese/Chinese or just Taiwanese identity.

The anti-Beijing attitudes of the Hong Kong and Taiwan populations now are set in stone and there is no way the communist government can win back hearts and minds in either place, short of fundamentally changing its own anti-democratic mindset and behavior.

As for the views of mainland Chinese, that was demonstrated in the most vivid way by the tens of millions who protested for reform in more than 100 Chinese cities in 1988 and 1989, as well as in the thousands of civil protests that occur each year over local or national issues.

However, now another factor is emerging, running directly counter to Beijing’s decades of internal and external posturing and weakening one of its primary nationalist rallying cries — the status of Taiwan. Since Mao Zedong (毛澤東), China’s leaders have religiously proclaimed Taiwan as an integral part of China and declared it a “core” issue for the Chinese people.

Official propaganda has sought to stir popular passions on the issue and Western scholars simply accepted unquestioningly that nationalist fervor left Beijing no room to maneuver on the question of Taiwan. According to that widely accepted argument, any reduction in the constant pressure for unification (Taiwan never had been part of the People’s Republic) would be considered a betrayal of Chinese sovereignty and create such a popular outcry that the regime’s hold on power would be threatened.

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