• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 8:12am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Taiwan’s student movement is a lesson in how democracy works

Stephen Vines says Taiwan's student movement sets us a fine example

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 April, 2014, 7:34pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 April, 2014, 2:03am

What lessons should Hong Kong draw from Taiwan's so-called Sunflower Movement? As ever, the usual suspects have concluded that Taiwan's democracy led to chaos, and they even claim that what happened in Taipei "proves" that democracy is not a suitable model for governing a Chinese society.

Let's start with "chaos"; it is quite correct to say that the Legislative Yuan has been occupied and was not able to operate, but it was business as usual for the rest of Taipei and, of course, the rest of Taiwan. To suggest that Taiwan is consumed by chaos is absurd.

It was business as usual for the rest of Taipei and, of course, the rest of Taiwan. To suggest that Taiwan is consumed by chaos is absurd

Then there's the immensely insulting idea that, somehow, a Chinese society cannot handle democracy. If anything, the Taiwanese experience provides a direct rebuttal to this disparaging lie. Since the end of the Kuomintang dictatorship, successive elections have produced peaceful and profound changes of leadership at national, regional and city levels. It should also be noted that the transformed KMT has played an active part in the new democracy and achieved considerable success.

Moreover, since the advent of democracy, not only has the economy flourished, and grown at a pace never seen under the dictatorship, but the rule of law has been enhanced to the extent that an open judicial process had the ability to jail a former president for his misdeeds in office.

The student-led but not exclusively student-composed Sunflower Movement is first and foremost about accountability. It is spurred on by the notion that the KMT government is getting too close to the regime on the mainland and is working towards an unacceptable degree of integration.

We have seen learned articles explaining that the spur for this particular action, a trade pact, will bring considerable economic benefits to Taiwan. This is debatable, but assuming that this is so, it is all the more remarkable that a substantial proportion of Taiwan's population values liberty over economic advantages.

Meanwhile, back in Hong Kong, we are about to be presented with a version of democracy in which the people will only be able to elect chief executive candidates endorsed by mainland authorities.

Little wonder that there is talk of civil disobedience here. It should be stressed, however, that this is but one of the many expressions of extreme frustration with the current state of play in the political reform debate. However hard the anti-democrats try, they cannot find a convincing way of ignoring the reality that the majority of Hong Kong people retain an appetite for democratic and accountable government.

Even less plausible is the idea that the sensible and self-disciplined people of Hong Kong are suddenly about to run riot. It is an undeniable fact that the only prolonged period of violent rioting in our modern history was instigated by the pro-Beijing forces in the 1960s; the same people now occupying seats at Hong Kong's top table.

The unpleasant core of the anti-democrats' case is their contempt for Hong Kong's people and the belief that they lack the ability to govern themselves. To add insult to injury, they allege that Hongkongers will always emulate the worst examples from other societies.

What is never mentioned in all this commentary over recent events in Taiwan is the widely held views of Taiwanese people, who will readily tell you that if "one country, two systems" means that Taiwan will be ruled like Hong Kong, they want nothing whatsoever to do with it.

History records that Deng Xiaoping's vision of this form of rule was primarily designed with Taiwan in mind. Hong Kong, and to a lesser extent Macau, were seen as testing grounds. Well, the test has been undertaken and its results are there for all to see.

Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist and entrepreneur


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Stephen.. what a rubbish!!! go fxxx yourself!!!
Mr. Stephen Vines is another knee-jerk China basher and supercilious expat witch now stirring Hong Kong's political cauldron. I use my words carefully here. Unlike those who have nothing but contempt for Chinese culture, I go by facts but don't question their motives.

One Easter I visited with my college roommate's family village in Maine near the Canadian border. His old family with only 2 siblings was then expanded by three more after his mother second marriage from the untimely passing of his natural father.

Over dinner, the "baby" brother wanted the chicken neck. Reflexively, his older brother passed up his drumstick already on the plate and demanded the same. It took a while before my roommate's stepfather settled this dispute. No chicken neck for either of them. "If you don't keep quiet," they were warned, "no dinner for you."

On another occasion, the baby just had his toenails trimmed. Then he threw a temper tantrum: "I want my nails back!"

I remember them fondly because none grew up with self-hatred like HK pan democrats. In case you wonder what happened to that baby brother, he got a PhD. in electrical engineering and became a professor. For sure, he is no pseudo intellectual like HK politically heperactive academics or legally constipated Civic party lawyers.

I endorse this true story as my political message to Hong Kong's silent majority, should they decide to come out of their shells to vote in 2017, as well as to lobotomized airheads.
Fear-mongering is a common tactic for CCP apologists. In pursuit of democracy, they warn, a rapture-like falling of the sky will undoubtedly ensue. When you're trying to sell authoritarianism, one certainly can't do so on the basis of its own merits (especially when the system itself lacks the confidence to test its own merits in the eyes of its people). So their only option is to cry wolf as far as democracy is concerned. 'Taiwan is in chaos'. 'Occupy will bring ruination to HK'. THe methods are stale, and the message is predictable. But hey, CCP apologists are nothing if not shameless and thick-skinned. So we'll be seeing this again and again for some time yet.


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