Hong Kongers journey to Taiwan to expertise elections — Quartz


As political turmoil unfolded in Hong Kong final yr, many Taiwanese, cautious of China’s encroachment, appeared on with the catchphrase “at this time Hong Kong, tomorrow Taiwan” in thoughts. And in Hong Kong, some are questioning whether or not yesterday’s Taiwan foreshadows their tomorrow.

With that in thoughts, scores of individuals from Hong Kong are touring to Taiwan to expertise tomorrow’s (Jan. 11) presidential election firsthand, through which incumbent Tsai Ing-wen is favored to win a second time period. The unrest in Hong Kong has helped gas resistance to the Beijing authorities in each locations, and likewise stoked renewed curiosity in Taiwan’s personal painful historical past of overcoming 4 a long time of authoritarian rule to grow to be a full-fledged democracy within the early 1990s. In Hong Kong, solely native elections are democratic, whereas the chief government is chosen by a committee of 1,200.

One in all these “election vacationers” is Tang Siu-wah, a 41-year-old Hong Kong author who mentioned that the rising realization that Hong Kong and Taiwan “shared a typical future” prompted her to enroll in a four-day tour to look at the election. Tang, who was shot close to her eye by police with a rubber bullet on New 12 months’s Day, mentioned she additionally wished to be taught extra about Taiwan’s authoritarian and infrequently bloody previous. “I’m steeling myself for (Hong Kong’s) future,” she added, as she stood exterior a Taipei cafe that had “Stand With Hong Kong” displayed on the entrance.

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A Taipei cafe expressing help for Hong Kong.

Tang joined a 30-person tour group operated by GLO Journey, a Hong Kong-based company that gives off-the-beaten-track journeys to locations together with North Korea. Although going to Taiwan has been a ritual lately for individuals resembling politicians and civil society teams in Hong Kong, such curiosity is now rising among the many common populace. Jacqueline Chan, the final supervisor for GLO’s Taiwan operations, mentioned an try to prepare a tour for 2018’s native elections in Taiwan didn’t generate sufficient curiosity, however this yr’s journey was shortly crammed up. The Taiwan election tour value round $1,000, unique of flights. Different Hong Kong teams have organized comparable journeys (hyperlink in Chinese language).

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One other tour provided by GLO that shortly crammed up was a nine-day journey to Poland and Ukraine, mentioned Chan. That’s largely as a result of ballooning curiosity within the historical past of democratic actions all over the world, with Hong Kong protesters discovering notably kinship in Ukraine’s current resistance motion (although the recognition of TV present Chernobyl additionally performed a component, she added).

“Only a poll paper away” from Hong Kong

Curiosity in Taiwan for Hong Kongers isn’t merely tutorial. Tsai, who’s warding off a problem from pro-Beijing candidate Han Kuo-yu, has taken a strongly supportive stance on the Hong Kong protests, a method that has boosted her standing as voters see her as a frontrunner who’s prepared to face as much as China. Dozens of Hong Kong protesters have additionally fled to Taiwan, and Tsai has allowed about 60 of them to increase their momentary stays, although native legislation doesn’t permit them to achieve asylum. Taiwanese have additionally supported the protesters in Hong Kong by donating provides resembling helmets and fuel masks. The ultimate polls present Tsai main Han with a wholesome margin.

Isabella Steger/Quartz

The Hong Kong group go to the headquarters of the small Taiwan Statebuilding Celebration in Kaohsiung.

Even Hong Kong politicians loyal to Beijing have historically traveled to Taiwan to look at the elections, although no such journeys have been deliberate for this election as a result of deterioration in relations between Taipei and Beijing, in line with HK01 (hyperlink in Chinese language), an internet information outlet. Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its personal territory, reviles Tsai as a result of her get together’s independence-leaning stance. It has additionally carried out a number of coercive financial measures in opposition to Taiwan since she got here to energy in 2016, chipped away at its few remaining diplomatic allies, and steadily threatens to make use of drive in opposition to the island.

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Along with attending political rallies and visiting a celebration’s headquarters, the tour group went to traditionally vital websites in Taiwan’s democratic wrestle, together with a former detention heart for dissidents exterior of Taipei. Within the southern metropolis of Kaohsiung, which was a hotbed of political opposition in the course of the martial-law years, a neighborhood tour information led a strolling tour and retraced the historical past of occasions such because the “228” bloodbath of Feb. 28, 1947, a nation-wide rebellion by locals in opposition to the newly put in Nationalist authorities from China that was violently put down, with 1000’s of deaths. One other seminal second on the tour itinerary concerned 1979’s Formosa Incident, when authorities arrested protesters together with key opposition leaders. The occasion galvanized Taiwan’s democratic motion and sense of identification, a lot in the identical method that the protests in Hong Kong of the previous seven months have accomplished.

Martial legislation in Taiwan resulted in 1987, and 5 years later it carried out constitutional reforms, which have been adopted by its first multi-party democratic presidential elections in 1996.

AP Photograph

Navy and police face off in opposition to protesters in Kaohsiung on Dec. 10, 1979.

The historical past classes are a reminder that Taiwan paid a “heavy value” for democracy, mentioned a 47-year-old man on the tour who didn’t wish to give his identify as he works in China and fears repercussions for his security. Although he was eager to know what classes Taiwan holds for Hong Kong, he famous that in truth a two-way studying course of is underway because the Hong Kong protests have reminded younger Taiwanese that “they should cherish what they’ve.”

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He invoked a saying at present widespread in Taiwan to make his level: “Taiwan isn’t removed from Hong Kong—its only a poll paper away.”


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