If Beijing had its way, the democratic island of Taiwan would be reunified with mainland China under the same political set-up known as “one country, two systems” that gives Hong Kong a certain amount of autonomy from the central government (or at least is supposed to).
But as thousands continue to protest in Hong Kong for genuine democratic elections and are met with tear gas and pepper spray, some Taiwanese think the “one country, two systems” idea has failed and the autonomy “enjoyed” by Hong Kong is a sham.
Taiwanese student activists expressed their support to Hong Kong students’ class boycott on 22 September 2014 in the hopes of raising awareness in Taiwan of Beijing's manipulation of Hong Kong's election reform.
In response to the violent clashes between the student protesters and the Hong Kong police on 27 September and the debut of a massive sit-in dubbed Occupy Central the following day, more than a thousand people gathered in the Freedom Square in Taiwan to express their solidarity with Hong Kong protesters.
Beijing will allow former British colony Hong Kong a direct vote for its next top leader, but requires candidates to receive majority support from a largely pro-Beijing nominating committee before being put on the ballot. Protesters argue that this election framework, presented by the Standing Committee of the National Congress of People Committee, goes against the universal suffrage that Hong Kong was promised.
The Black Island Youth has protested against the [pro-unification ruling party] Kuomintang, which keeps ignoring Taiwanese citizens’ voices, and has resisted the ‘China factor’, which has more and more influence over the Kuomintang. As a result, we highly respect the courage and effort of the young people in Hong Kong shown in your protest against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Beijing rejects Taiwan's independence and considers the island a wayward territory.
A Taiwanese blogger, shophist4ever, pointed out that the election framework imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing reflected the failure of “one country, two systems”:
The Chinese government does not need to make things so ugly. The ‘one country, two systems’ in Hong Kong is also a demo for Taiwan. However, the so-called ‘electoral reform framework’ proposed by China's government is actually designed for a [Hong Kong] chief executive selected by Beijing. For a person who has seen a real election in a democratic country, they will not accept this proposal.
Kuo-Chang Huang, one of the leaders of the Sunflower Movement, which occupied Taiwan's legislative building for three weeks to protest a secretly negotiated trade deal with China, pointed out that the Chinese Communist Party's infiltration in Hong Kong has eroded the rule of law in the city and warned Taiwan not to follow in Hong Kong's footsteps:
If you want to observe how the CCP infiltrates a society, you should observe Hong Kong. Things have been changed to an extent that is difficult to be understood. Such things should not be tolerated in Hong Kong. When Hong Kong was governed by Britain, there was no democracy, but there was legal system. Now based on the practice of legal institutions in Hong Kong, you may feel that there is no democracy, and its legal system is degraded.
The CCP promised Hong Kong ‘one country, two systems,’ the right to elect their chief executive, and no change in 50 years. Nevertheless, the CCP changed their mind overnight. The CCP surely knows the political cost of their treachery—it becomes a deceitful party that publicly breaks its promise. Why does the CCP dare to do it? Because Hong Kong is in the pocket of China—Hong Kongers, you are in my pocket. Give up your resistance. Since you are in my hand, what can you do?
From the point of view of China, Taiwan is in the same position as Hong Kong. The CCP plans to make Taiwan economically rely on the market in China so that it can put Taiwan in its pocket slowly. Afterwards, the CCP will have a lot of chips in the political negotiation. The CCP will let Taiwanese see the reality. ‘You cannot escape from my hand, so what do you want to negotiate with me?’ The end game of the cross-strait relationship is to unify Taiwan and put Taiwan in the CCP’s pocket.
Nevertheless, the protests in Hong Kong have inspired Taiwanese activists. A retired professor, Chin-Hsing Liu, talked about what he observed in his trip to Hong Kong this June when an unofficial referendum on voting rights, which earned hundreds of thousands of signatures, was taking place:
This trip to Hong Kong was a big shock to me. Previously I thought since the sovereignty of Hong Kong has been transferred to China, Hong Kong is geologically connected to China, and Hong Kongers used to consider themselves as Chinese, how can they escape from the hand of China? […] I was wrong. You cannot force a chicken back into an egg. A person who used to have freedom will not give up freedom. Although the democracy movement in Hong Kong started late, they have a firm direction and full power.