Hong Kong pro-democracy advocates and budding politicians have flocked to Taiwan this week to observe its elections.
One delegation of about 50, including a batch of young Hong Kong district councilors who stormed to a landslide electoral victory in November last year, has been networking with key civil leaders, academics and officials.
“We want to learn and gain more experience, to help Hong Kong people as they struggle on their democratic road in the future,” said Raymond Tang (鄧威文), a district councilor who attended an evening seminar in Taipei with fellow delegates on countering fake news.
The links between the two places have never been deeper: Hong Kong has been convulsed by more than seven months of anti-China protests and Taiwan’s elections come amid heightened fears of an increasingly assertive China under President Xi Jinping (習近平).
“There’s an acute sense of threat from China. What’s happened in Hong Kong has made everyone reassess its relationship with Beijing,” said Joseph Cheng (鄭宇碩), a veteran pro-democracy advocate and one of the delegation leaders.
“Democracy has taken root in Taiwan and it refutes the basic argument that democracy is for the West, that it doesn’t apply to Chinese people, which is the argument propagated by Beijing,” he added.
In a Facebook video posted late on Thursday, 15 district councilors from Hong Kong, urged Taiwanese to treasure their unfettered democracy and to vote today.
“This time it’s over to you,” they said in a montage. “Hong Kong and Taiwan, let’s go for it together.”
Taiwan has become home to a small, but growing number of Hong Kong protesters who have fled the territory fearing politically motivated charges against them.
About 6,200 immigrants from Hong Kong and Macau are eligible to vote in Taiwan.
Lam Wing-kei (林榮基), a Hong Kong bookseller once abducted by Chinese agents, is trying to rebuild his life in Taiwan opening a new bookstore, set to open in March.
Lam said he is optimistic because of the burgeoning intellectual and political ties between Taiwan and his home.
“What we’re seeing in Taiwan is a country facing a military threat and economic encroachments from China. This is not a good combination and it perpetuates uncertainty,” he said, standing in an empty store space that he plans to fill with thousands of books focused on politics in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.
“I hope my bookshop can make a little difference, to influence Taiwan, and raise their awareness,” Lam added.
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