Hong Kong-born Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou affirmed his support for the Occupy protests during a recent interview with the New York Times.
It came after a sternly worded statement from the Chinese State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office warning Ma “not to meddle in Hong Kong’s internal affairs”.
In his Taiwan National Day speech last month, Ma asked why China couldn’t let Hong Kong become democratic just like Deng Xiaoping allowed Chinese people to become rich 30 years ago.
It’s common knowledge that when Beijing promised the “one country, two systems” arrangement to Hong Kong, it had its eye on Taiwan.
Thus, anything that might undermine this principle is being watched in Taiwan. The island’s top leaders must express their views in a straightforward manner.
Since Ma took office, he has been seen as too weak when it comes to cross-strait relations.
Ma puts emphasis on stability based on trade and economic cooperation with China but Beijing has had a U-turn in its attitude toward his administration after the student-led Sunflower Movement in the past summer held up a cross-strait trade agreement.
The agreement is key to Beijing’s plan to exert more influence on Taiwan by economic means.
Beijing has shown its displeasure by turning down a much awaited meeting between Ma and President Xi Jinping at the upcoming APEC summit.
With the prospect of a political breakthrough gone, Ma no longer has to tread lightly when commenting on Hong Kong affairs.
Also, Ma has to demonstrate his determination to protect Taiwan’s democracy after the Sunflower Movement made the Taiwanese more distrustful of the mainland.
In turn, anti-China sentiment could benefit candidates from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party in this month’s local elections.
Hong Kong should further strengthen its ties with Taiwan to learn more about democracy given the island’s “one person, one vote” election model and its fair and open nomination process.
Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan can bring in new legislation, in contrast to its Hong Kong counterpart which is constrained by the Basic Law under an executive-led political structure.
Besides learning international election standards (western standards), Hong Kong could follow Taiwan’s example when the democracy movement enters a new stage.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 3.
Translation by Frank Chen
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