The wave of protest in Hong Kong has made headlines around the world, but it may be followed most closely in Taiwan. As recently as January, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed reunification with Taiwan under the same “One Country, Two Systems” framework now unraveling in Hong Kong.
On his release from prison on June 17th, Hong Kong democracy advocate Wong Chi Fung issued a stark warning: “Today Hong Kong,” he said, “tomorrow, Taiwan.”
Over the past month, the government’s heavy handed response to protests in Hong Kong has transformed the political equation in Taiwan. Last year, campaigning mostly on economic issues, the opposition Kuomintang swept Taiwan’s municipal elections and looked set to recapture both the presidency and control of the National Assembly come January.
Now, polls show incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen with a lead over her most likely rivals. Her Democratic Progressive Party is best known as a champion of Taiwanese independence; events in Hong Kong, she said, prove that “one country two systems” is absolutely not feasible, and now leaders of the historically pro-Chinese Kuomintang are scrambling to follow suit.
FoxConn tech billionaire Terry Gou called it a “failure” and the mayor of Kaohsiung, Han Kuo-yu, said, if he’s elected president, “One Country, Two Systems” would be imposed “over my dead body.”
At the same time, China continues to apply military pressure.
Last week, Chinese fighter jets buzzed a Canadian frigate as it sailed through the Taiwan Strait. According to the CBC, two Su-30s flew a hundred feet off the water and came within a thousand feet of HMCS Regina and a naval replenishment vessel, Asterix. The Canadian ships were en route from a port visit in Vietnam.