China’s application of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong proves that it is inappropriate for Taiwan, Brookings Institution Taiwan Studies director and former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Richard Bush said.
The whole idea has become a “major obstacle” to China achieving its political objectives with respect to Taiwan, Bush told a Washington hearing into the future of democracy in Hong Kong held by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
The commision’s chairman, Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, said that Bush had mentioned fears in the highest echelons of the Chinese government that Hong Kong might look too much like Taiwan in terms of democracy.
He asked Bush how the Hong Kong protests had impacted Taiwan.
“It is my impression that after the initial media coverage of the Hong Kong situation, public attention in Taiwan was diverted to other issues,” Bush said.
“What has happened in Hong Kong, and what is likely to happen in Hong Kong, only confirms a long-held belief that the two entities should not be treated under the same framework as China is trying to do,” he added.
Brown said news reports suggested that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had developed a closer friendship with China compared with former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
If Taiwan was moving toward “some kind of Chinese model,” Brown said, he wondered how the Hong Kong protests might affect the situation.
Bush said that what was happening in Hong Kong contributed to a trend that was already in play.
“The Ma administration and China have grabbed all the low-hanging fruit in terms of the sorts of cooperation they can get,” Bush said.
He said that Taiwanese politics had been immobilized earlier this year by the Sunflower movement.
“Where China would really like to go on cross-strait relations is political talks and President Ma has correctly been very wary of going down that road because he is very committed to the idea of the Republic of China,” Bush said. “And that is something that Beijing doesn’t want to talk about.”
Bush said that Ma, who was born in Hong Kong, came out a few weeks ago with a very strong statement in favor of democracy in Hong Kong and the peaceful protests going on there.
“Beijing was profoundly unhappy with his statement and felt that he was sticking his nose where it didn’t belong,” Bush said.
Asked by Brown if the Sunflower movement in Taiwan had served as a template for what was happening in Hong Kong, Bush said there had been a lot of interaction between activists “exchanging experiences and techniques.”
He said that the interaction could play into the China “narrative” that the Hong Kong protests were fueled by “a bunch of black hands from the US, Taiwan and so forth.”
However, the Hong Kong protests were “definitely homegrown,” he said.
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