Written by Leon N. Kunz. In March 2014, participants in the Sunflower Movement peacefully occupied the main chamber of Taiwan’s parliament to block the ratification of a controversial trade agreement with the PRC that they viewed as a threat to Taiwanese democracy. In September of the same year, protesters involved in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement created street occupations to push for genuine democratic reform. In both cases, participants not merely occupied public space but claimed to engage in civil disobedience. According to the often-cited definition by liberal theorist John Rawls, civil disobedience is “a public, nonviolent, conscientious yet political act contrary to law usually done to bring about a change in the law or policies of the government.” To what extent did the occupations in Taiwan and Hong Kong conform to the dominant liberal civil disobedience script?
Written by Chen Jie (陈杰). There are remaining concerns urging the government of democratised Taiwan to support democratic causes and human rights in China. In fact, for the Tsai Ing-wen administration, these issues have strengthened. Despite their disdain for the one China project, politicians of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) share the sentiment that Taiwan’s own democratisation inspires China. This is echoed internationally. The former US Vice President Mike Pence spoke positively about Taiwan’s “embrace of democracy” and the example it had set for “all the Chinese people.”
Written by Ferran Perez Mena. During the past year, the Hong Kong protests, along with the newly approved National Security Law, have generated much anxiety in Taiwan. They have been perceived by both the DPP’s political elite and the Taiwanese public as a premonition of what lies ahead for Taiwan. One of the popular slogans of the protests, “Today Hong Kong, Tomorrow Taiwan” (今天的香港,明天的台灣), perfectly epitomises the widespread unease that such political events are producing and the apparent inevitability of Taiwan’s downfall.
Written by Adrian Chiu. A large number of Hong Kong people travelled to Taiwan, personally covering experiences, just to share the sentimental moment of the Tsai’s predicted victory. Hong Kongers were present at electoral rallies in Taiwan, waving the anti-ELAB movement flag and slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.” Although these Hong Kong people may not vote in Taiwan, they nevertheless all campaigned for Tsai.
Written by Gerrit van der Wees. Tsai’s overwhelming victory represents a tremendous comeback, as her popularity was at an all-time low just one year ago after the disastrous local elections of November 2018. The KMT made major gains in the 218 races for county magistrates and city mayors, including the race for Kaohsiung mayor which Han Kuo-yu won.
Written by Chun-yi Lee. On 11 January 2020, Taiwanese voters will head to the ballot box and elect their next president. This short essay will explain why we should pay attention to this election and will particularly focus on Taiwan’s receding populism. My observation is that populism follows on from economic anxiety—a phenomenon that is faced by most democracies in Europe and the United States. Taiwan is no exception, but in January, Taiwan’s populist candidate will probably not be victorious.
Written by Hsin Hsin Chang and Ian Inkster. More globally and problematically, if the Hong Kong element should indeed serve to determine outcomes, then it may be seen as the leading non-western component of a general global trend to distraction capitalism, where democratic processes that should revolve around general and fundamental social and economic policies are squeezed out by rhetorical clamour focusing on personalities, external events and one overwhelming internalised but badly digested issue.
Written by Abbas Faiz. At a time when democracy is being battered by populist leaders in Western countries and demonised by authoritarian states around the globe, seeing democratic aspirations held dearly in Taiwan and Hong Kong is greatly reassuring. Taiwanese have stood fast in their resolve to protect their hard-earned democracy. Despite the real threat of annexation by China, they have not fallen into the trap of authoritarianism that characterises the spectrum of post-liberation states elsewhere.
Written by Gerrit van der Wees. I just finished watching a powerful video of a street singer standing on a street corner in Hong Kong, singing pro-democracy songs. Some policemen moved in to stop him from singing, but despite the menacing position of the police, the presence of a surrounding crowd prevented them from acting. In the end, the singer wins, and the police lose.
Written by Michael Chan. The months-long protests have generated much interest and sympathy from Taiwan’s citizens. Prominent pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have gone to Taiwan to appeal for assistance and support, and commentators have noted that the protests may have altered the dynamics of Taiwan’s 2020 election. This essay, however, looks at Taiwan from a Hong Kong perspective and how the ‘idea’ of Taiwan has been appropriated as symbols of resistance against the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.
Written by Milo Hsieh. As the protests in Hong Kong continue, Hong Kongers and Taiwanese around the world have demonstrated a surprising level of solidarity. Taiwanese have mobilised to send protest gear to Hong Kong, and coordinate activists to speak at events, organise protest support rallies and create “Lennon Walls” to raise awareness. But just what explains such spontaneous, global demonstrations of Hong Konger-Taiwanese solidarity?
Written by Lev Nachman. Since the protests began five months ago, Taiwan watchers have commonly attributed Tsai’s growing success and Han’s continued decline to the protests. But to what degree have the Hong Kong protests actually impacted domestic politics in Taiwan? What if the Hong Kong protests never happened? What would Tsai’s position be?