"Is Hong Kong more democratic than Taiwan?"
by Emily Lau,
Legislative Councillor and Convenor of The Frontier
10 April 2000
The 18th March 2000 is a very significant date in contemporary
Chinese history. Mr Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive
Party was elected president of Taiwan, defeating Kuomintang
(KMT) candidate Lien Chan and independent James Soong. The
victory of Mr Chen marked the first peaceful transfer of power by
universal suffrage in Chinese history.
Commenting on the Taiwanese election result, senior Hong Kong
government officials, including the Chief Executive, Mr C. H. Tung,
said Hong Kong was "more democratic" than Taiwan. The
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Michael Suen, said the high
voters' turnout of 82.9% was due to "black gold" politics and Hong
Kong has nothing to learn from Taiwan.
During his recent visit to North America, Mr Tung told his
audience Hong Kong was democratic because it has the rule of law,
an independent judiciary, a lively media and the government was
transparent and accountable. However when asked why the Hong
Kong people cannot elect their government by one-person, one-
vote, Mr Tung said he preferred to answer another question.
Hong Kong officials should stop behaving as if the local people
and foreigners are idiots. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence can
tell that Taiwan is more democratic than Hong Kong. To argue
otherwise is to betray one's ignorance. Perpetrating a patent lie is
conduct unbecoming of Hong Kong government officials.
During his North American tour, Mr Tung spoke repeatedly on
Taiwan, castigating the pro-independence forces. In so doing, Mr
Tung gave the distinct impression he was a mouthpiece of Beijing.
He also confirming Hong Kong does not have "a high degree of
Addressing a lunch meeting of the US Chamber of Commerce
in Washington D. C., Mr Tung said "one country, two systems"
should not be applied to Taiwan because the Hong Kong and
Taiwan are very different.
Since Beijing's "one country, two systems" concept was to be
applied to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, Mr Tung's faux pas
caused embarrassment and consternation. The Hong Kong
Government had to issue a statement to clarigy Tung's remarks,
confirming "one country, two systems" is meant to be applied to
As Mr Tung rightly noted, Hong Kong and Taiwan have
different historical background. Hong Kong's democratisation
process is much slower, mainly because British colonial rule was
not as repressive as the KMT rule in Taiwan. Consequently the
Hong Kong people did not feel the need to rise up the way the
Taiwanese people did.
However it must be evident to all that democracy does not fall
like Manna from heaven. Up to now, not too many Hong Kong
people have tried hard to promote democracy. This explains why
we have achieved so little.
If Hong Kong people do not take a proactive stance, we will
have to wait many more years before we can emulate Taiwan.
But the fact is that we are no lesser beings. Why should we be
denied the right to elect our government, especially when that
right is enshrined in the Basic Law, our mini-constitution?
The Legislative Council has urged Mr Tung to consult the public
on political reforms, but our demand has been brushed aside.
This is not surprising. A government that is not elected by the
people will not respect the wishes of the people. Neither does
the government feel it should be accountable to the people.
It is up to us, the people of Hong Kong, to assert ourselves.
Like the Taiwanese, we must learn to be masters of our own house.
We can start by demanding the right to elect our government.