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TAIPEI, Taiwan – As Taiwan prepares to hold a closely watched election on Saturday, January 13, the main political parties have highlighted China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and rejected Beijing’s model of governance there being applied to the self-ruled island.
The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and Beijing has often promoted the “one country, two systems” model of rule there as appropriate for democratic Taiwan which China claims as its own.
“Regarding Hong Kong, I once again urge Beijing to treat Hong Kong well,” said the main opposition Kuomintang party’s vice presidential candidate, Jaw Shaw-kong, who referred to an ongoing national security trial in Hong Kong involving China critic Jimmy Lai that could see him jailed for life.
“Jimmy Lai should be treated well and given a fair trial. It is not right that … the government appoints three judges for him, with a trial lasting 80 days – the outcome of which I can already predict,” Jaw told reporters on Thursday, January 11.
Lai, a businessman and activist, faces a charge of colluding with foreign forces, including with prominent political figures in the United States, in a trial that has drawn international attention.
“If Beijing treats Hong Kong in this manner, the people of Taiwan are watching. The Taiwanese people will absolutely not accept the ‘one country, two systems’ framework,” Jaw added.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule with the promise of a high degree of autonomy under the one country, two systems model that guarantees an independent judiciary and liberties often denied in China, including freedom of expression and of assembly.
Critics, however, say China has reneged on its promises, especially with the enactment of the national security law in 2020 that has led to the jailing of democratic activists, the closure of liberal media outlets and civil society groups and a crackdown on dissent.
Beijing says the national security law has restored order after mass pro-democracy protests in 2019.
Earlier in the week, Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate, Lai Ching-te, was critical of Hong Kong’s lack of freedoms under Chinese rule, saying the same could happen to Taiwan if Beijing has its way.
“If China succeeds in intervening, whoever China designates to support will be elected. Of course, Taiwan’s democracy will not exist. Then Taiwan is not electing a president … it is electing a chief executive, just like Hong Kong,” Lai told reporters on Tuesday.
“While we have ideals for peace, we cannot afford to have illusions. Accepting Beijing’s ‘one China’ principle is not true peace. Without legitimate sovereignty, it’s a false peace, just like in Hong Kong.”
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said last month that people should think of what happened to Hong Kong when they vote. The DPP has been a staunch advocate of rights in Hong Kong and has criticied China’s clampdown on the city under the national security law.
At the last election in 2020, Tsai also emphasized Hong Kong’s plight, with the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters there helping her to a resounding re-election victory. – Rappler.com