President Xi Jinping has steered China into one of its most repressive periods since Mao Zedong’s rule. Those who dare step outside party line are silenced, detained, or worse. The fact that he is unencumbered by presidential term limits has empowered his pursuit of “national rejuvenation” more than ever. And reunification is only a matter of destiny and a requirement for rejuvenation.
Hong Kong, in utmost turmoil as this goes to press, knows full well the significance of Xi’s power. The extradition bill introduced earlier this year raised their antennae for trouble ahead. The current Hong Kong protesters are prepared to do whatever it takes to resist Beijing’s increasing encroachment.
Of course, there also is a different camp who would like to see an end to the protests, if not just because of the inconvenience, but because of the chaotic image projected to the world. They fear economic repercussions and abhor the violence and property damage.
The violent clashes of 2019 stand in stark contrast to the mainly peaceful Occupy Central movement of 2014. But then, the stakes also are much higher today. The protesters are fighting for their freedoms and their way of life.
A Sept. 28 South China Morning Post article disclosed that Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, had to seek Xi’s approval to formally withdraw the infamous extradition bill despite saying it was her own decision to do so three weeks earlier. The mid-September U.S. Congressional hearing in Wash., D.C., which, amongst others, included student activist Joshua Wong, Cantonese pop star Denise Ho and Dan Garrett, a U.S. citizen and academic who had lived in and written a book on Hong Kong, told of deteriorating circumstances and increasing erosion of civil liberties facing Hong Kongers. Garrett was denied reentry to Hong Kong after his testimony in front of Congress.
Are mass arrests and martial law next? Or worse … a repeat of Tiananmen Square played out at Tamar Park, the Admiralty or any one of the many protest sites?
Who, besides Hong Kongers, is paying full attention to all this? The 23 million people on an island approximately 440 miles to the east of Hong Kong.
The island of Taiwan, for all intents and purposes, has been an independent, self-governing democracy since 1949 even though China has claimed sovereignty over it.
The Taiwanese are increasingly alarmed by what’s happening in Hong Kong since Xi had mentioned “One Country, Two Systems” may be a model for Taiwan after reunification, AND that “China reserved the right to use force” to that end.
Approximately 300 Taiwanese turned up in Taipei’s Central Park on Aug. 11 to spell out “Free Hong Kong.” There are efforts by private Taiwanese citizens to collect and donate to Hong Kong protesters kits of gas masks, air filters and helmets. As in Hong Kong, Lennon Walls at rally sites and coffee shops are proliferating in Taiwan as well.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has also been completely resolute in her support of the Hong Kong protests. A June 17 parliamentary statement included one paragraph that said, “The legislature expresses support for the citizens of Hong Kong in their pursuit of democracy and freedom. It urges the Hong Kong government to withdraw the extradition bill.”
Tsai tweeted in June:
Tsai has defied Xi’s reunification. In her 2019 New Year speech she called on China “to face squarely the reality of the existence of the Republic of China on Taiwan” and that China should “respect the insistence of 23 million people on freedom and democracy.”
However, Tsai’s sentiment is not shared by all Taiwanese. Her political rival (for the January 2020 presidential election) Kaoshiung Mayor Han kuo-yu is pro-Beijing. He visited with senior Beijing officials in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. But fearing political backlash for his “I don’t know” comment on the Hong Kong protests, he came out with a “never one country, two systems” statement.
China has been forcing the 20-some countries to sever their diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Since 2016, Taiwan has lost five allies. The latest allies to cave were Solomon Islands and Kiribati, leaving Taiwan with only 15 countries in the world that recognize its sovereignty currently. Despite a decrease in official diplomatic ties, Tsai has done a great job in increasing international engagement since coming to power in 2016.
Additional strongarm tactics from China toward Taiwan include forcing major airlines to list Taiwan and Hong Kong under China! Taiwanese representatives are blocked by China from attending international conferences as observers.
It also is reported that China is waging cyber warfare in an effort to sway the outcome of Taiwan’s January 2020 presidential election. As treatment of Hong Kong’s protesters deteriorate, Tsai’s anti-reunification position will only strengthen and help her political campaign. Those in Taiwan who may have previously considered the feasibility of signing a “peace treaty” with China can see from Hong Kong’s situation how fragile and untenable such a treaty may be with a country known not to keep its promises.
More and more Taiwanese and Hong Kongers have come to realize the benefits of collaborating in their resistance to China’s power grab.
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Pearman: In this edition of “Dancing with the Dragon,” we present the Republican candidates and where they stand in relation to China, mainly the Chinese government. Owing to the large number of Republican candidates, we’re concentrating mostly on the candidates who are involved in Chinese issues and who we feel are likely to stay in the race for a while and have a decent chance to win the nomination. As before, we do not seek to persuade, merely to inform.
Wang: Within the Communist Party of China (CPC), the relationship with the United States is one of the key factors in evaluating the success or failure of CPC leadership. This is rarely known outside China, but it is with utmost importance in understanding U.S.-China relations. Therefore, the CPC is extremely invested in the U.S. economy, politics and the U.S. presidential election.Add a comment
By Elaine Dunn
On Sept. 26, 2014, a group of mostly young, hopeful students gathered outside the Hong Kong government’s headquarters to demand for greater input into the election of the next chief executive, the top ruling post in Hong Kong, of 2017. The police responded with pepper spray and arrested dozens of the demonstrators. What ensued was 79 days of civil disobedience that became known as the Umbrella Revolution because the demonstrators armed themselves with umbrellas as protect against police pepper spray and tear gas.
The number of the pro-democracy demonstrators grew to hundreds of thousands as the government response turned ugly. It was probably the first time since June 4, 1989, at Tiananmen Square in Beijing that such a large group had gathered to call for more political freedom from the central government. The mainly peaceful campaign ended in December when the sitting chief executive, under “instructions” from Beijing, ordered all the tents and barricades at the demonstration sites dismantled.
A year after the pro-democracy campaign, deemed “the most destructive movement since the 1997 handover of Hong Kong” by the mainland Chinese authorities, has there been any changes? Did the student leaders’ efforts achieve anything?
To the pro-Beijing crowd, the campaign’s demand for revising the 2017 election process of Hong Kong’s chief executive did not sway Beijing. To them, the Umbrella Movement:
was completely illegitimate
“wrongly encouraged” the young Hong Kongers to believe it was acceptable to express their demands by resorting to violence
undermined the governance and rule of law in Hong Kong, and
produced no tangible change - chief executive C.Y. Leung is still in office, although his popularity had dropped a few pegs.
The pro-Beijing camp also believed that to calm the angry, disenfranchised youth, the government need to establish programs that addressed housing and career prospects. As a result, the government has indeed funded programs to teach entrepreneurship.
For the pro-democracy student leaders, their lives definitely had seen changes. Joshua Wong, co-founder of the activist group Scholarism, the then 17-year-old “face” of the “revolution,” has been on the cover of TIME magazine. He also was featured as one of TIME’s “most influential teens of 2014.” In June 2015, a few days before the 18th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, he was attacked on the street after attending a movie with a friend. TIME reported that Wong felt “there are serious safety concerns in the future” for activists like himself, and that he needed “to care more about my personal security.” In terms of the pro-democracy movement, he is talking long-term, that Hong Kongers need to look beyond 2017 to 2047, when the 50-year transition period (from British rule to Chinese rule) of “one country, two systems” is up. And, he stresses Hong Kongers need to fight for the right to self-determination, not just focus on election reform.
In August, Wong and two other student leaders were charged for their roles in the 2014 protests. Wong was charged with unlawful assembly and inciting others to participate. Alex Chow, formerly with the Hong Kong Federation of Students, was charged with unlawful assembly. Nathan Law, the federation’s current leader, was charged with inciting others to join an unlawful assembly. They face up to two years in prison if found guilty. All three pleaded “not guilty” to their charges at their Oct. 30 pre-trial hearing. If their attorneys do not seek a stay of the proceedings, their trials will begin end-February. Three others, organizers of the Occupy Hong Kong movement, have yet to be formally charged by the authorities.
The pro-democracy camp did score a mini victory when pro-democracy lawmakers defeated Beijing’s election package in a June 2015 vote. Although that means the next chief executive nominees will be chosen by the same Beijing-approved 1,200-member committee, it also denied giving the election false (universal suffrage) legitimacy.
As for the dire predictions of how much harm the protests had wrought on Hong Kong’s economy, the impact had been insignificant. The city’s colonial laissez-faire approach had stayed relatively intact, being ranked “third-easiest place in the world to do business” by The World Bank in October 2014. And in February 2015, the city reported its economy grew by 2.3 percent in 2014.
So, while all the tents and umbrellas are gone, and the protests continuously trivialized by the pro-Beijing camp, no one can deny that the 79 days brought about the political awakening of the younger generation and gave the generally politically apathetic older population of Hong Kong a clearer insight into genuine democracy. Furthermore, judging from the “I want universal suffrage” banners that popped up around the one-year anniversary of the Umbrella Revolution, the fight spirit for election reform has not vanished. Perhaps under new leadership and, as some socialist groups suggest, another mass struggle to reopen the electoral reform discussion, the Umbrella Revolution opened the floodgates that may one day lead to changes the students sought.Add a comment
On July 28, 1914, World War I broke out in Europe, which spread to other continents soon thereafter. During the following month Japan’s Prime Minister Ōkuma Shigenobu directed Foreign Minister Kato Taka-aki to throw Japan’s lot with Britain and France against the Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary. The motivation for this lay not so much with the idea of helping Britain and France as it was to head off any future objections that Britain might have toward advancing Japan’s future activities in China. It was hoped that Britain would provide diplomatic interference for a Japanese seizure and permanent possession of all German mandates and leaseholds in the Pacific and in China.Add a comment