The Hong Kong protests lasted for six weeks, and their leaders were jailed. It was a stunning upset for a sprawling and self-governing city.
The victory of pro-Beijing lawmakers in a special legislative election Sunday over the pro-democracy camp was a rebuke of the pro-democracy forces’ last ditch effort to hold onto the city they’ve called home for decades. It has left a sense of uncertainty in the city, who fear the pro-establishment camp is conspiring to dismantle the city’s attempt to build a transparent democracy.
If Beijing does indeed decide to hold a referendum to decide whether Hong Kong should be allowed to maintain greater democratic freedoms, there’s little chance it’ll be well-received, as the current Hong Kong government holds a stable majority in the legislative bodies.
But many Taiwanese were not so fortunate, a country that has been under Chinese rule since the Nationalist Party seized it from China during the civil war in 1949. As that party continues to gradually cede power to democratic activists in the country, the same holds true in Hong Kong.
In the past, pro-democracy groups have expressed alarm at Beijing’s moves to force the two governments to agree on how to run the island. A round of contentious elections in 2012 led to hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets in protest of the push for democratization. Beijing has since dangled the promise of universal suffrage at the beginning of negotiations between Taiwan and China, as a way to get the people of Taiwan to accept Beijing’s sovereignty.
Although the exchange has been generally positive, international efforts at strengthening ties between the Chinese and Taiwanese governments have been limited to domestic discussions of whether or not Taiwan should be allowed to maintain some form of independence.
In 2012, a year-long standoff over the election issues produced a global flashpoint. But for many Taiwanese, the unsuccessful protests were more than just a showdown between the two governments. They constituted a sweeping defeat for the Democratic Progressive Party’s generation.
As Taiwanese social media sites like Siwiwangue exploded with emotions over the results of Sunday’s election, many online commentators reflected on what many described as a bitter experience for the students and young activists who led the pro-democracy movement.