Sun, Jul 20, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Wang Dan says HK at crossroads

A student leader during the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstration, exiled Chinese dissident Wang Dan is in Taipei at the invitation of the city government for a six-week stay as a writer-in-residence. Wang recently sat down with `Taipei Times' staff reporter Sandy Huang to share his views on recent protests in Hong Kong


Wang Dan talks to the `Taipei Times' at a Starbucks in Taipei City on Monday. Wang says the massive protest in Hong Kong on July 1 marked a turning point in the territory's development.


Taipei Times: How do you assess the impact of Hong Kong's massive protest on July 1 against the government's proposed anti-subversion bill on China and Taiwan?

Wang Dan (王丹): I think this time the large number of people who took to the streets in Hong Kong marks a turning point in Hong Kong's development. Until then, the atmosphere in Hong Kong was never political and its appeal for democracy has never been demonstrated on such a large scale as we witnessed this time around.

Another thing worth noting is that, unlike past outcries by Hong Kong people that involved mostly the social elite or business leaders, this time around the demonstration was participated in by ordinary people, who stood up unanimously for democracy and their fundamental rights. It is something that has never happened before.

How this mass public outcry will evolve we can't yet tell. But one thing for sure is that the political side of Hong Kong has become more apparent.

China's changes have their own scope while those of Hong Kong have their own. After all, Hong Kong, being a special administrative region, is itself just too special. Given "one country, two systems," there is always an excuse for events in Hong Kong to not start a chain effect or waves elsewhere in China.

While we can't tell right away what kind of immediate impact there will be on China, there will be something eventually.

As for Taiwan, the July 1 demonstration obviously severely dim-med the appeal of Beijing's promise of "one country, two systems" to people in Taiwan.

TT: What's your outlook on democratization in China? What kind of events could act as a catalyst and deliver an impetus for democratic development in China?

Wang: Many changes are taking place in its internal structural and thus outsiders are unaware of them.

The growing consciousness of the middle class will clash with the government over economic issues, and then escalate later to social issues. Plus, the increasing flood of Chinese intellectuals returning to China from years abroad will eventually prompt changes, new ideas and influences to take shape in Chinese society.

On the surface, all seems tranquil and stable with everything moving day in and day out just fine. But the thing is that changes and influence are taking place unobtrusively and imperceptibly.

Discontent among the people is boiling and fomenting and one day an unexpected event will bring their suppressed resentment and grievances to the surface like we've just seen in Hong Kong.

The mass demonstration that took place in Hong Kong on July 1 was not a sudden out-of-the-blue outburst but a result of underlying discontentment that Hong Kong people have harbored for so long. The introduction of the proposed anti-subversion legislation was the last straw that prompted them to jump out and say, "We have had enough."

Most people in Taiwan are pessimistic about reform in China with some thinking that democracy in China is out of reach for at least another 40 years.

I disagree. I think five to 10 years from now we will see democratic change surface in China. Take the mass protest as an example. Hong Kong people are not known for being politically emotional, but look at what happened on July 1. Such events could and will happen in China as well. It will just take a sudden event to ignite people's underlying resentment and anger to bring them to the surface.

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