A Chinese flag flies in front of the Taiwan Presidential Palace in Taipei. A Republic of China (Taiwan) flag is seen on the right. Photo: Central News Agency
A Chinese flag in front of the Taiwan Presidential Palace in Taipei. A Republic of China (Taiwan) flag is on the right. Photo: Central News Agency

Every time there is a major political shift in Hong Kong, more citizens want to get out – and emigrate to Taiwan. As of December 2016, more than 70,000 residents from Hong Kong and Macau had emigrated to the self-ruling island, VOA Chinese has reported.

Observers in Taiwan believe the trend will continue, as more people in the two former European colonies become disillusioned with the reality of the communist takeover and measures imposed by Beijing gradually wear down Hongkongers’ ability to identify with China.

The steady erosion of Hong Kong and the value it has under the guise of “One country, two systems” resonates with Taiwanese as well as Hongkongers.

Hong Kong seems, metaphorically speaking, destined to be “a piece of meat on China’s chopping block”, given many pledges made by Beijing in the Sino-British Joint Declaration have ended up not being worth the paper they were written on.

Hong Kong, now a Chinese special administrative region, serves as a potent reminder to Taiwan of everything it must avoid in its dealings with China, according to a Liberal Times editorial, a Chinese-language paper based in Taipei.

“The regression of democracy, liberty and human rights in Hong Kong clearly shows Taiwan’s 23 million people what they will get once Taiwan is reduced to another Chinese SAR (Special Administrative Region).”

A protester raises umbrellas after riot police fire tear gas to disperse protesters in Hong Kong’s Admiralty district on September 28, 2014. Large-scale protests calling for a full democratic vote to choose Hong Kong’s next leader rocked the city for 79 days. The  Occupy Central campaign was the most serious challenge to China’s authority since the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations and crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Umbrellas became a symbol of the 2014 campaign as protesters used them to fend off police pepper spray attacks. Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

It is believed that Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to impose a similar “One country, two systems” framework on Taiwan either through war or non-military pressure, even though the anger of many former Hong Kong citizens has long spread across to the island.

“‘One country, two systems’ will take proper care of Taiwanese people’s interests,” Xi has said.

Behind the struggle of wills between Taipei and Beijing, there is a competition between big powers. The consensus among Taiwan policymakers is to establish closer ties with other democratic allies to counter an authoritarian Beijing.

This is true despite the growing number of Taiwan politicians and businessmen who have chosen to pledge allegiance to Beijing and blow the trumpet for China’s prosperity while spreading defeatism on the island, as the paper notes.

Working in tandem with psychological ploys such as planes and warships circumnavigating the island, Beijing has stepped up its policy to “buy off the Taiwanese” and wear down the Taiwanese economy in an attempt to cultivate pro-unification economic groups.

Taiwan-born scholar Lu Li-an is seen at a press conference during the Communist Party of China’s 19th congress in Beijing in November 2017. Photo: Xinhua

Kaohsiung-born Taiwanese academic Lu Li-an, who now teaches at Shanghai’s Fudan University, grabbed much limelight and curiosity when she became a delegate at the 19th Communist Party Congress late last year.

After the Congress ended, officials from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office paid visits to Taiwanese businesses, schools, communities and families in 12 provinces across the country, when officials revealed that Beijing is drafting plans to provide Taiwanese living on the mainland with equal educational, business, employment and living standards as Chinese nationals, according to Xinhua.

They claim that Beijing will keep pushing profitable and powerful policies for Taiwanese in China. A commentator with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party said the policies were, in effect, no more than an attempt to sugarcoat Beijing’s threats to take over the island by force.

“Missiles and monetary silver bullets are directed at Taiwan. As Taiwan is shielded internationally, whether a Chinese invasion would succeed depends on the will of Taiwanese,” he said.

Read more:

How Xi aims to take Taiwan without pulling a trigger

Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo to face more menacing from Beijing

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