The recent call for the resignation of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) reflected Hong Kongers’ deep anxiety over Taiwan’s pro-China stance in the past few years, political commentator Paul Lin (林保華) said.
Lin was referring to a paid advertisement Hong Kong pro-democracy activists placed in newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan on Tuesday.
The half-page ad, which condemned the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government for loosening regulations on tourists and immigrants from China, and raised concerns over the Hong Kong government pandering to Beijing government policies, contained the signatures of more than 300 people.
The ad called for Leung to step down and urged Taiwan’s people and government to take the situation in Hong Kong as a warning sign.
“Since Leung took office, freedom and rule of law as previously enjoyed by citizens of Hong Kong have deteriorated. Beijing approved the immigration of a large number of Chinese citizens to Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government was not allowed to refuse, and it has now lost control over policy directive,” Lin said.
Lin added that an increasing number of Chinese are taking advantage of Hong Kong’s social benefits and resources, but the territory’s younger generation is worried about their future and fear China’s authoritarian rule.
“In the heart of many people in Hong Kong, Taiwan is the last bastion of democracy. They fear that if Taiwan’s democratic society disappears, Hong Kong will lose its value and its reason for existence and would rapidly be taken over by Chinese Communists. Therefore they want Taiwanese to learn from Hong Kong’s experience and they urge Taiwan to safeguard its hard-won democracy,” Lin said.
Led by Hong Kong Legislative Council Member Gary Fan (范國威) and environmental activist Roy Tam (譚凱邦) among others, the campaign first initiated a public donation drive and on Tuesday placed an ad in two Hong Kong newspapers — Ming Pao and Metro Hong Kong — as well as in the Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) in Taiwan.
In the ad, they said Leung’s initiative to open up to Chinese tourists and immigrants had damaged Hong Kong’s culture and society.
They said Hong Kongers have been left in despair, and they requested that Leung resign and that Beijing end its interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.
The ad featured an open letter which stated that major government policies are no longer prioritizing the interests of Hong Kong residents, but are treating Hong Kong as a Chinese city, leading to the rapid integration of the territory into Beijing’s political authority.
The open letter said that the Hong Kong government has allowed the territory to be opened up to 50 million Chinese tourists each year, and the impact is seen in the closure of many small Hong Kong restaurants and stores, losing out to large business enterprises that are run with Chinese investment, and exploiting the basic living necessities of Hong Kong residents, resulting in widespread public discontent.
“Unfortunately, the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration has followed Leung’s lead by opening up Taiwan to Chinese tourists. We do not want Taiwan to follow in our footsteps. The Taiwan-China relationship is somewhat similar to the Hong Kong-China relationship. Therefore we hope Taiwanese will learn lessons from what is happening in Hong Kong right now,” Tam was quoted as saying in a media interview.