Chinese students in Taiwan who support pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong say they are remaining quiet, fearing potential consequences after confrontations between Chinese and Hong Kong students on campuses.
“To protect our safety, we have opted to keep silent” over what has been happening in Hong Kong since June, said Xiaoyu (小玉), a postgraduate student from Zhejiang Province who used a pseudonym to protect her identity.
“I’ve been accused by many of not being patriotic for remaining silent over Hong Kong,” said Xiaoyu, who has been studying in Taiwan for six years. “I want to make it clear that not all [Chinese students in Taiwan] buy the [Chinese government’s] account.”
Xiaoyu said that she is among a few Chinese students she knew who stayed in Taiwan after graduating, with most who studied here at the same time as her having returned to China.
“I’ve seen good times and bad times [for Chinese students in Taiwan], but I have never sensed such a chill and hostility as now, not even during the Sunflower movement,” she said, referring to anti-Beijing protests in 2014.
Some Chinese students who back Beijing’s line have clashed with students from Hong Kong or torn down messages of support for the Hong Kong protesters on “Lennon walls” on campuses.
Such incidents have been painful, leaving her “heartbroken” because of the “blind patriotism” of some Chinese students, Xiaoyu said.
“How can you [Chinese students] be so blind now that you are in Taiwan, where you have access to all kinds of information?” she asked. “Why not get complete information, instead of just calling the protesters useless youth or Hong Kong independence supporters without even knowing what their five demands are?”
The clashes between students from China and Hong Kong in Taiwan might be because Chinese students tend to be cliquish, she said.
They generally spend their time with others from their hometowns and only get news from Chinese social media platforms, Xiaoyu said.
Asked whether she believed alleged vandalism by Chinese students on Taiwanese campuses was orchestrated, she said she could not say one way or the other.
“There are radical students, but you can never know the motivation behind their comments and you will never see a clear order from an organization,” she said. “I hope that Taiwan and Hong Kong will continue to say what we [Chinese students] cannot say.”
A student from Guangdong Province who used the pseudonym Lin Lin (琳琳) said that the culture of Hong Kong was part of her upbringing.
“Government propaganda and accusations of terrorism by Chinese media against Hong Kong pro-democracy supporters are really terrifying,” said Lin Lin, who is studying in Japan after graduating from a university in Taiwan.
The approaches used by the Chinese and Hong Kong governments have done nothing to solve the problems, she said.
“Instead, it has split the two sides even further,” she said. “I don’t understand why they call people who are willing to risk their lives to express their views and fight for their rights ‘useless youth.’”
She has many friends who oppose the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, so she is sometimes even afraid to voice a simple “Go Hong Kong,” Lin Lin said, adding that such expressions lead to accusations that people favor Hong Kong independence.
She said that the defacing of Lennon walls was proof that “Beijing’s brainwashing efforts have paid off,” even for Chinese outside of China.
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