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HK scholars analyze Taiwan policy after election
Wu Xueer
4/29/2004



After the recent presidential election in Taiwan, Hong Kong City University political science professor Zheng Yushuo and legislator Tu Jinshen, both attended a forum to discuss the election results.

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After the recent presidential election in Taiwan, Hong Kong City University political science professor Zheng Yushuo and legislator Tu Jinshen attended a forum to discuss the election results. They both think that the recent election reinforced the Hong Kong people’s confidence in pursuing democracy.

Zheng pointed out that the Taiwanese presidential election was dominated by the issues of constitutional reform and the referendum proposed by Chen Shui-bian. This made the Blue Camp (the KMT, or the Nationalist Party) unable to capitalize on the economic problems of the Green Camp (Democratic Progressive Party). He said that with a sluggish economy and high unemployment, the current government, which is Green Camp, had the possibility of being defeated. But the last two elections (the last in 2001) overcame these views, with an increased number of votes going to the Green Camp. Interestingly, the head of the Blue Camp’s election committee, Wang Jingping, said that in future elections they would include the issue of independence from China as part of their platform, and would not rally against the Green Camp’s “one country theory.” Needless to say, this is not music to the ears of Beijing, who has consistently advocated for Taiwan’s reunification with Mainland China.

Zheng pointed to data showing that in the past four years support in Taiwan for maintaining the status quo with the Mainland was steady at just over 50 percent. However, the level of support for unification dropped from 21 to 13 percent and support for Taiwanese independence rose from 13 to 21 percent.

He thinks this is because Beijing's Taiwan policy is too stern and uncompromising, and it makes the Taiwanese people feel like they are being oppressed and bullied. That’s why the request to defend Taiwan brought forward by Chen Shui-bian received support from the majority of Taiwan people’s. Even during an economic downturn, he still received a majority of votes.

Professor Zheng thinks that the ultimate challenge the Beijing government faces with Taiwan nowadays is how to win back the Taiwanese people’s trust and confidence. He said that in many cases, when Taiwanese people mention the negotiations with Chinese authorities in Beijing, they say that they would be putting their own lives, social status and personal property all on the line.

Then the question is, who would want to reunify with a nation in which they don’t have any trust or confidence?

Zheng said that Mainland leaders do not trust Chen Shui-bian, and do not believe that it would be constructive to pursue negotiations with him. Zheng thinks that the Mainland leaders will temporarily “listen to [Chen’s] words, and observe his behavior,” and thus handle his talk of “independence” with two other factors that are opposed to Taiwan’s independence.

One is the influence from the Western world, especially from the United States. The United States supports the Taiwanese people’s opinions and would be opposed to Chen taking action and changing the situation all by himself. However, if the Chinese Government relies on Western countries, they have to be quite patient, and avoid exerting pressure on Taiwan for a while.

The other factor is the economic conformity for both sides. Taiwanese businessmen think highly of good economic relations with Mainland China.

As far as the effect of Taiwan’s election effect on the Hong Kong people’s striving for their own democracy, Zheng noted that in 1987 and 1988, Taiwan lifted regulations on newspapers and political parties, and got further and further away from enforcing martial law, and by 1996, they had established, basically, a democratic system. The most important thing is that there has been no major violence. During this time, Taiwanese society has basically been stable, and economic growth has been high. All of this makes Chinese people overseas feel proud, since it proves that Chinese people can practice democracy, and also that they can set up a mature democratic system.

Zheng thinks that Hong Kong can also practice full democracy. A democratic system needs the cooperation of the “democratic culture.” There are some problems with democracy in Taiwan. In the initial stage of development of Taiwanese democracy, there appeared some problems such as buying votes, bribery in the elections, members of the legislature fighting with each other in parliament, etc. After continuous improvement, the “democratic culture” has reached a satisfactory level.

Zheng said, “Many people say that democracy might not necessarily solve our problems, and democracy might not comprehensively solve the problems of Hong Kong. However, without democracy, nothing can be solved. The experiences of Taiwan tells us that a Chinese society is capable of being democratic, and the democratic system can gradually improve.”

Zheng also said that leaders from Beijing need to understand that if they want to resolve the Taiwan issue with peaceful means, democracy is a precondition. “How can a China with no democracy solve the Taiwan issue with peaceful means? There is no democracy in Hong Kong, how attractive is the policy of ‘one nation, two systems’ to people in Taiwan? Who are the people that obstruct democracy? They are people with vested interest in [Mainland China’s current] system.” Before Zheng Yushuo left, he said that he wanted to remind the citizens of Hong Kong to participate in the September voting for election of the legislative council.

Another speaker Xu Jinshen, who was a Democratic legislator who attended the forum, said that democratic elections were very successful in Taiwan. Even though the number of votes for the Blue Camp and the Green Camp were so close, Taiwanese people have shown their sensibility. If this happened in some other Asian countries such as South Korea or Malaysia, the public would probably have displayed much more emotion and violence.

He said that the election this year has a significant role in further democratizing Taiwan, as well as in contributing to the democratization of other regions of Asia. It will also increase the confidence of Hong Kong’s people in pursuing democracy.

Xu Jinshen also mentioned that more than 70 percent of the people of Hong Kong wish to implement general elections for legislature and chief executive in 2007 and 2008. “Recently there are some leftwing people who will attack such patriotic ideas, but the citizens know exactly what they want.”

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