Hong Kong is a role model for China in the implemenation of “one country, two systems”, a governing formula coined by the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.
It paved the way for Hong Kong’s return of sovereignty to China and it serves as a guiding principle in China’s efforts to achieve reunification with Taiwan.
It’s no surprise that Taiwan has been paying attention to recent developments in Hong Kong, particularly the Basic Law interpretation by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) which effectively disqualified two localist lawmakers-elect from taking office for having improperly taken their oaths.
In the wake of the decision, Taiwan’s presidential spokesman Alex Huang said China should adopt a “positive attitude” toward Hong Kong people’s ideas and aspirations.
At the same time, Wang Min-shen, a spokesperson for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said Beijing authorities should respect Hong Kong’s pursuit of democracy and engage in dialogue instead of stripping elected officials of their rights.
The comments angered the Hong Kong government which warned the Taiwanese officials against interfering in domestic affairs.
On Tuesday, the government issued a statement in which it reiterated that Hong Kong has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy since the handover and that Hong Kong people have been running Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law.
It said this showed the successful implementation of the “one country. two systems” principle which is “widely recognized”.
Far from being deterred, the Taiwanese turned on China, with Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council Minister Katharine Chang saying Beijing should respect its commitments on “one country, two systems” even though she has no trust or belief in it.
Hong Kong officials defended Beijing by telling Taiwan to keep its nose out of its backyard.
From the perspective of the Taiwanese, the Hong Kong government’s response is out of touch with reality.
In fact, the Taiwanese government under President Tsai Ing-wen has been speaking out for Hong Kong, using a proactive approach to show its support for everything from the democracy movement to the case of the disqualified legislators.
This is hardly surprising. Taiwan feels a certain affinity to Hong Kong in their shared values of freedom, culture and democracy.
In a sense, the Taiwanese also suffered oppression under their own government in the form of “white terror” during the 1980s when the then ruling Kuomintang used arrests and intimidation to muzzle the opposition and crush dissent.
Which is why the recent developments in Hong Kong is resonating in the island.
On Wednesday, at least three major newspapers ran front-page stories about the disqualification of Youngspiration’s Sixtus Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching
The stories also focused on a High Court ruling which effectively barred the duo from taking their seats in the Legisative Council.
Last week, after the NPCSC interpretation was announced, three out of four major newspapers in Taiwan published related stories on the front page.
In a Taiwan Daily headline, Beijing was accused of breaking its promise to Hong Kong.
Liberty Times said the NPCSC’s interpretation deprived two elected lawmakers of their rights.
Front-page coverage of international issues is rare in Taiwan, where the media is obsessed with domestic politics.
The underlying message in all of this is Taiwan’s complete distrust of Beijing, especially in regard to reunification under “one country, two systems”.
If only for that, Taiwan has every reason to make its feelings known every time related issues crop up in Hong Kong.
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