Hong Kong's Occupy Central: Implications for Taiwan
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 8, 2014
Executive Summary: Hong Kong needs democracy. Taiwan needs dignity. The people of Hong Kong are fighting for democracy, The people of Taiwan are fighting for dignity. Both sides of the Strait and the Hong Kong government are promoting democracy. But they must avoid haste, both in their attitudes and their practices.
Full Text Below:
The Hong Kong Chief Executive election has led to a major controversy. The Hong Kong Student Federation and other pan-democrats initiated the Occupy Central movement. Some college students boycotted classes in response, triggering massive protests, and days of unrest in the streets. The pan-democrats hoped to force the CCP to lift the restrictions on the Hong Kong Chief Executive nomination process. The Hong Kong government initially adopted a hardline stance. It tried to disperse the crowds. But the conflict expanded, and attracted worldwide attention. The USA, the UK, and the EU all issued statements calling for reason and restraint. Mainland officials have reiterated that Hong Kong's affairs are a domestic issue. Beijing firmly opposes any violations of the rule of law in Hong Kong, and any disruptions of social order. It hopes that foreign governments do not send the wrong signals. Beijing has adopted a hardline stance. Apparently room for compromise is limited.
Mainland geopolitical power has increased. Relations between Hong Kong and Taiwan are close. The ROC government is concerned about the situation in Hong Kong. Agencies charged with national security matters have examined the future of Hong Kong and weighed its impact on Taiwan. Premier Jiang Yi Hua told lawmakers that the government supports the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong. It remains optimistic, and hopes that the Hong Kong government will heed the aspirations of the people, remain rational, and exercise moderation. Protest activities hae resulted in injuries. The ROC government has expressed regret. President Ma Ying-jeou also expressed understanding and support. He hoped that the Mainland authorities would handle the matter peacefully and cautiously. He also urged Hong Kongers to find a peaceful and rational means of expressing their demands. Taiwan has expressed support in principle, but wants to avoid improper and untoward interference in Hong Kong's internal affairs.
There has been much rhetoric about how "Today's Hong Kong is tomorrow's Taiwan" on Taiwan. This reveals at least two problems. One. It reflects public fear and distrust of the CCP on Taiwan. It could also be a case of crocodile tears. People may fear that one day Taiwan will be in the same situation as Hong Kong. Two. It reflects some peoples' lack of confidence in Taiwan. Actually, today's Taiwan could be tomorrow's Hong Kong. Taiwan's development has its pros and cons, but its evolution is nevertheless worth studying. Actually, it involves a fundamental question of identity. As the British media has said, Mainland China is not Hong Kong's enemy, it is its future. Hong Kongers must understand this. So must the public on Taiwan. The Mainland is Taiwan's hope and opportunity, not its nightmare and threat. Knowing this will make it easier to find one's way.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen said that human rights are given to us by Heaven. The fight for human rights however, is our own. This is the difference between natural rights and civil rights asserted through revolution. We respect and support the Hong Kong people's fight for their rights, and their desire to determine their own future. But we must also realize that everything in this world has pros and cons. Policy choices often involve trade-offs. Nothing is all good or bad. The Hong Kong protest groups have dared to shout "umbrella revolution" slogans. They have issued an ultimatum to the government, threatening to occupy government offices. By implication, they mean to confront or even overthrow the regime. If so, they must be prepared to pay the price. Their careers, their futures, their economic security are likely to be affected. They may even face prison or injury. After all, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."
Beijing and Washington are preparing for the November APEC meeting between Xi Jinping and Barack Obama. Washington will probably raise human rights issues. But Washington has issued two clear signals. One. CCP Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited the United States and spoke with National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Midway through Obama joined the conversation. Two. Washington's response to the events in Hong Kong have been limited to reaffirming its principles and expressing its concern. It has not assumed a high-profile by condemning Beijing. Clearly Washington is looking at the big picture. It does not dare, at least not openly, to have it out with Beijing. This is something everyone must understand. Even a government as powerful as the United States, must weigh its principles, ideals, and values against its national interests. Only when they coincide will the United States wave the banner of morality.
The protests in Hong Kong may grow, or they may soon end peacefully. But the events have harmed Hong Kong's economy and torn society in two. The most likely result of long-term confrontation would be a lose-lose situation. To be fair, the fight for democracy and opposition to Mainland China are two very different matters that must not be confused.
Mankind already knows that all political systems are bad systems. Democracy is a relatively good one. In the long run, its political mechanisms and limits on power are more consistent with the interests of the people. But democracy is a learning process. It requires compromise and dialogue. Democracy requires the rule of law and responsibility. The fight for democracy requires gradualism and reason. No one can claim to represent the truth.
Hong Kong needs democracy. Taiwan needs dignity. The people of Hong Kong are fighting for democracy, The people of Taiwan are fighting for dignity. Both sides of the Strait and the Hong Kong government are promoting democracy. But they must avoid haste, both in their attitudes and their practices.