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Recently, The Millennial Source spoke with Taiwan citizens to learn what those on the eastern side of the Taiwan strait think of the current unrest in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has now entered its 12th week of almost continuous protests, with increasingly bloody clashes between protesters and both riot police and masked anti-protest assailants. Mounting tension continues to grip the city, with chaos erupting at the Hong Kong International Airport on multiple occasions in August.
Violence in Hong Kong – home to 7.5 million people – has reached its highest levels since at least 1997, when the UK returned the island to Chinese control. Many are wondering what the future holds for both Hong Kong and Taiwan, two politically unique regions.
Meanwhile, Taiwan struggles to maintain a status quo of tense and intentionally ambiguous ties with mainland China. Beijing continually pushes for the One Country, Two Systems structure to be implemented on the democratic island, while Taiwanese leaders continue to push back.
In an effort to ratchet up the pressure, Beijing recently issued a ban of individual Chinese travel to Taiwan, stifling the inflow of Chinese tourist money into the Taiwanese economy. However, current Taiwan President Tsai Ying Wen remains adamant that as long as she holds office, the proposed One Country, Two Systems approach will never take root in Taiwan.
China’s government is making a mistake by prohibiting individual travelers from coming to #Taiwan. They are depriving Chinese people of their right to experience our free & democratic lifestyle for themselves, which is the most natural way to improve cross-strait communication. pic.twitter.com/TAfhSfEW3K
While President Tsai remains firm in her rejection of any mainland China involvement in Taiwan’s internal affairs, the people of Taiwan are more skeptical about her ability to maintain the status quo.
To #Taiwan, our freedom & democracy are not negotiable. We are committed to self-defense & international cooperation. I call upon all members of the region to join hands to maintain regional peace & stability. pic.twitter.com/p6IXhwuaaL
“President Tsai won’t necessarily have a choice,” said a Taiwanese woman who asked not to be identified. “China has the ability and the power to bleed our economy dry. Their military powers and resources also very obviously overpower ours. The United States’ stance remains unclear, and I bet if a trade solution happens [between China and the US], Trump will not even sell us weapons.
“It will be fascinating to see the election next year in Taiwan. But looking at what is happening in Hong Kong, it should be a warning light for all candidates.”
The woman’s anxious sentiments are shared among many of the island’s 23.6 million residents. Convinced that Hong Kong’s unrest provides a preview of their own future if Taiwan continues to resist Beijing, many Taiwanese are nervously watching every development with the protests 700 km away.
This widespread pessimism is interwoven with suspicion in the minds of many. We asked another source about the mainland Chinese government’s escalating meddling in Hong Kong, along with Beijing’s explicitly stated desire for unification with Taiwan. He responded, “I bet China staged this whole uproar [in Hong Kong] to find an excuse to start getting more involved and send military troops into the region.”
He continued, “What many people need to realize, especially people in the West, is that there is a cultural aspect to China’s need to control us, and that is preserving face. If China suggests to their people and the rest of the world that they can’t control Hong Kong, a region of 7.5 million people, how are they supposed to manage their 1.4 billion? They’re never going to just let us [Hong Kong and Taiwan] go, it would undermine their government too much.”
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