Twenty years after its return to China, Hong Kong’s social angst resembles that of Taiwan’s on the eve of the 228 Massacre in 1947, and the territory’s residents should take heed of Taiwan’s experience to prevent a similar incident from happening, speakers at an event in Taipei said yesterday.
Hong Kong media reports in 1997 about the return of the territory to China were similar in tone to post-World War II local media reports in Taiwan concerning the nation’s “retrocession” to the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime, as they said that people in the two places rejoiced over their reunification with the “motherland,” Taiwan 228 Incident Care Association director-general Pan Hsin-hsing (潘信行) said.
“However, just 16 months after [the KMT assumed control of Taiwan], the 228 Massacre happened,” he said. “Similarly, just 20 years after Hong Kong’s return, the city’s social atmosphere resembles that seen just before the 228 Massacre about 70 years ago.”
Photo: Chen Yu-fu, Taipei Times
Pan expressed concern that a similar incident could take place in Hong Kong.
The reports documenting the KMT’s corruption published by Minpao — the first privately run Taiwanese newspaper after World War II — that led to the 228 Massacre were comparable with reports by Hong Kong news outlets, he said.
Pan made the comment at Taipei’s National 228 Memorial Museum, where a news conference was held to mark the launch of an exhibition titled Taiwan then, Hong Kong now: Exhibition on the 228 Incident and Hong Kong.
The exhibition touches on “social degradation” in Hong Kong’s society following the transfer of sovereignty, from the outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in 1997, the spread of SARS in 2003, and the skyrocketing housing prices as Chinese hoarded real estate after the signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with the mainland, to the democracy movement by Hong Kongers calling for direct election of the chief executive and the Causeway Bay Bookstore abductions in 2015.
The failed “one nation, two systems” model Beijing promised Hong Kongers was a “sugarcoated lie,” and the plight of Hong Kong should serve as a warning for Taiwanese, political commentator Paul Lin (林保華) said.
Chang Jung Christian University professor Chuang Wan-shou (莊萬壽) said he was surprised at the notion of Hong Kong independence when the term first started spreading, because Hong Kong has a much briefer history than Taiwan and, as a commercial port city, its demography is highly diverse.
Chuang expressed admiration for young Hong Kongers fighting for their civic rights, saying they were proof that humanity’s pursuit of freedom and democracy will never cease.
“Hong Kong occupies an important geographical location and as long as Hong Kongers stay, they will one day become a thorn in China’s side,” he said.
The opening also featured a screening of Journey to Beijing (北征), a documentary by Hong Kong director Chan Yiu-shing (陳耀成), which follows a group of Hong Kongers on a charity trip on foot to Beijing, shortly before the handover, to help children get an education, while searching for the meaning of “motherland” along the way.
Asked what “motherland” means to Hong Kongers nowadays, Chan said it is likely an abstract concept for them.
A portion of the city’s population thought of China as their motherland just before the handover, but over the years, Hong Kong independence has become a mainstream conviction among young Hong Kongers, he said.
“While some people view Hong Kong independence as an unrealistic goal, the majority of Hong Kongers definitely want to have autonomy at the very least,” he said.
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