Oct 10, 2014

Taiwan: President Calls for Democracy in Hong Kong

On the occasion of Taiwan’s National Day, the President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, called upon China to allow for a move towards democracy in Hong Kong and rejected Beijing’s claims that Western-style democracy is not appropriate in China.  

Below is an article published by the Wall Street Journal:


Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said Friday that China should move toward constitutional democracy and that process could start in Hong Kong, where protesters are demanding a greater say in local elections.

During a speech marking Taiwan’s National Day celebration in Taipei, Mr. Ma took a jab at Chinese government statements that Western-style democracy isn’t suitable for China. “Now that the 1.3 billion people on the mainland have become moderately wealthy, they will of course wish to enjoy greater democracy and rule of law. Such a desire has never been a monopoly of the West, but is the right of all humankind,” Mr. Ma said.

Many in Taiwan, which split from mainland China in 1949 amid a civil conflict that hasn’t formally ended, have closely watched the evolving protests in Hong Kong. Beijing has hoped the limited autonomy it has given Hong Kong, a former British colony, could serve as a model for Taiwan to reunify with the mainland. Most Taiwanese still opt for the status quo, hoping to keep Beijing at arm’s length from their thriving democracy, and the demonstrations in Hong Kong are reinforcing that wariness.

In his speech, Mr. Ma called on China to show the same kind of verve for pragmatic experiment that its leaders did when the country initiated economic reforms. “Thirty years ago, when Deng Xiaoping was pushing for reform and opening up in the mainland, he famously proposed letting some people get rich first. So why couldn’t they do the same thing in Hong Kong, and let some people go democratic first?” Mr. Ma said.

“Doing precisely this would be a surefire way to convert crisis into opportunity. It would definitely be a win-win scenario for both the mainland and Hong Kong, and would be strongly welcomed by the people of Taiwan,” he said.

Many Taiwanese are wary that Beijing is trying to undermine Taiwan’s democracy. Critics of Beijing point to reports of Chinese spies in Taiwan’s government and military and the appearance of news articles from the Chinese government’s Xinhua News Agency in some Taiwanese media. Taiwan’s minister for economic affairs, Woody Duh, also said this month that Beijing was meddling in Taiwan’s efforts to strike trade agreements with Australia and Malaysia, according to local media reports.

“Democracy is precious, but it is also very fragile. It needs to be treasured and protected, and it requires peaceable and rational expression of opinion. Otherwise, it could regress.” Mr. Ma said.