Asia Minute: Hong Kong Protests and Taiwan Politics

Aug 13, 2019

As protests in Hong Kong continue this week, they are getting attention from around the world. But they are a particular focus in the politics of a neighboring location in Asia: Taiwan.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has been supportive of protestors in Hong Kong, but cautious in her language. Early on, she criticized the proposed change in the extradition law at the heart of the initial demonstrations, and has said she’d consider granting asylum to some protestors on “humanitarian grounds.”

Well before this round of protests started in June, Tsai commented on what critics cite as Hong Kong’s erosion of freedoms during a spring stopover in Hawai’i. She said, “The Hong Kong example is deeply concerning.” Adding that “it reflects that democracy is inherently incompatible with the Chinese regime.”

On Monday, Tsai condemned violence in Hong Kong, and urged the police to exercise restraint.

Taiwan has an election coming next year, and it is fair to say that President Tsai is not the preferred candidate of the government in Beijing. In June, she won her party’s nomination for a second four-year term, and her poll numbers have risen along with her support of Hong Kong demonstrators.

Her opponent from the main opposition KMT party is Han Kuo-yu, the populist mayor of the port city of Kaohsiung. He favors closer ties with mainland China.

One possible wildcard in the election is the billionaire founder of electronics giant Foxconn, Terry Gou, who lost the nomination of the KMT, but still may run as an independent.