On July 1, 1997, the United Kingdom returned Hong Kong under China’s promise of “one country, two systems,” pledging it would maintain the city’s autonomy and civic freedom for 50 years. However, 22 years after the handover, rallies of unprecedented size have galvanized Hong Kong protesters who have taken to the streets to continue to fight against Beijing-backed legislation that could eventually erode judicial independence.
Due to excessive force by the police, once peaceful demonstrations against an extradition bill have grown into a pro-democracy movement reflecting that “one country, two systems” is on its last leg.
“One country, two systems” is a constitutional principle formulated by China, which allows Hong Kong to enjoy freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and an independent judicial system. However, since China’s President Xi Jinping took power, Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy has been undermined. In 2015, the Chinese authorities bypassed the Hong Kong judiciary system and arrested booksellers who had been working on a book regarding Xi Jinping’s personal history. The “extradition bill” would allow Hong Kong residents and visitors to be repatriated to China, legitimizing such kidnappings in Hong Kong and ultimately steamrolling the city’s freedom.
Regarding the deterioration of the situation, the Chinese authority strongly criticized the demonstrators as being radical and having totally breached the rule of law, morals and humanity, calling them “nearly acts of terrorism.” Chinese state media even released video images that show Chinese military troops amassing near the border with Hong Kong.
President Donald Trump calls Hong Kong’s protests a “very tough situation … I hope nobody gets killed.” In contrast, bipartisan leaders of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee condemned Chinese authorities’ hostility to protesters and threats of military intervention, warning that should Beijing use force, it “would be met with universal condemnation and swift consequences.” The United Nations’ human-rights chief called for prompt investigations into the use of force by law enforcement. And the European Union and Canada also issued calls for inclusive dialogue about Hong Kong. Clearly, the free world is expressing its displeasure with the unfolding events in Hong Kong.
As the protesters kicked off another round of anti-extradition protests, which have widened into a wider call for protecting Hong Kong’s future of freedom and autonomy under the ”one country, two systems” principle, the international community is worried that hard-liner Xi Jinping might create a new Tiananmen Square incident to crack down on protests.
What is even more worrying is that China attempts to shield the truth by creating fake news, including the Chinese foreign ministry claiming that the U.S. is “behind the escalating protest in Hong Kong.” Chinese media also mentioned the involvement of Taiwan and describes demonstrators as mobs who furiously beat police. All these accusations increase the misunderstanding and anger of the Chinese public and might lead to uncertainty for the future of Hong Kong.
Both Taiwan and Hong Kong are facing China’s suppression. According to statistics, the number of Hong Kong residents immigrating to Taiwan has increased rapidly and doubled in 2018, reflecting Hong Kong’s dissatisfaction with “one country, two systems” and the yearning for Taiwan’s democratic and free atmosphere.
The Taiwanese are also very concerned about the situation in Hong Kong and willing to provide humanitarian assistance. But we were not, and will not get involved, as the Chinese authorities claimed. President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan has repeatedly stated that “one country, two systems” is not an option for the Taiwanese, and that Taiwan will defend its sovereignty and will not become another Hong Kong.
Taiwanese people cherish their democracy and freedom, and support the people of Hong Kong in pursuing a democratic and free lifestyle. We sincerely hope that the Beijing authorities respond to Hong Kong’s expectations of democracy and let their expectations come to fruition. The world cannot let the people of Hong Kong live in fear and uneasiness.