News / Asia

    Hong Kong 'Umbrella Soldiers' Visit Taiwan to See Democracy at Work

    Supporters of Taiwan's ruling KMT or Nationalist Party presidential candidate Eric Chu cheer during a campaign rally in Taoyuan City, Taiwan,  Jan. 10, 2016.
    Supporters of Taiwan's ruling KMT or Nationalist Party presidential candidate Eric Chu cheer during a campaign rally in Taoyuan City, Taiwan, Jan. 10, 2016.
    Reuters

    Hundreds of residents of Hong Kong, the Chinese-ruled territory rocked by street protests demanding free elections in 2014, have flown to Taiwan for Saturday's elections to see free-wheeling democracy in action.

    Politicians, students and "Umbrella Soldiers" - activists who used umbrellas to fend off tear gas canisters during 79 days of street demonstrations in the former British colony - signed up for tours to meet candidates, visit polling stations and join boisterous election rallies across Taiwan.

    "You can watch and learn from Taiwan's political culture ... and witness the elections with your own eyes," Hong Kong-based Hong Thai Travel Services wrote in a commercial to lure takers for a sold-out four-day tour.

    China allowed a direct vote for Hong Kong's chief executive in 2017, but only from among pre-screened, pro-Beijing candidates, which the protesters denounced as a sham. The Beijing-backed electoral reform was vetoed by Hong Kong's legislature last year. Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, with a guarantee of wide-ranging autonomy under a so-called "one country, two systems" formula, with universal suffrage the "eventual goal".

    China considers self-ruled Taiwan a breakaway province and has not ruled out force to bring it under the mainland fold.

    China has held out "one country, two systems" as a solution for Taiwan. But both the island's ruling Nationalists (KMT) and the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have rejected the model.

    FILE - A protester holds an umbrella during a performance on a main road in the occupied areas outside government headquarters in Hong Kong's Admiralty in Hong Kong, Oct. 9, 2014.
    FILE - A protester holds an umbrella during a performance on a main road in the occupied areas outside government headquarters in Hong Kong's Admiralty in Hong Kong, Oct. 9, 2014.

    The Hong Kong protests, which blocked key arteries, posed the biggest political challenge and embarrassment in years for Beijing's Communist Party leaders, who are likely to be angered by Hong Kong tourists learning about democracy from their long-time foe.

    Wang Dan, a student leader during the 1989 democracy movement in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square that was crushed by the military, will be hosting groups of Hong Kong visitors at his "New School for Democracy" that advocates the democratization of China.

    He said the issue was not the law that Beijing lays down to decide the next chief executive of Hong Kong, but rather the work for political change from the bottom up, even if it takes many more years.

    "The only hope for Hong Kong's future is election, not a fight on the street," he said. "The [Taiwan] election is very important after the Umbrella Revolution. Hong Kong feels very desperate, that its future is not bright. But gradually they will see there is another way."

    Missing Booksellers

    Already there are fears that many of the freedoms promised to the territory are being eroded. Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a reprise of the anti-China protests, demanding to know the whereabouts of five missing people linked to a local publisher of books critical of Beijing's leadership.

    Other publishers and book vendors are unnerved by the mysterious disappearances, and in some cases they have pulled books critical of Beijing's leaders from their shelves.

    Taiwan votes in a new president and parliament on Saturday, when the China-friendly KMT is expected to be defeated by the DPP, a party Beijing loathes.

    China has regarded Taiwan as a renegade province since Chiang Kai-shek's defeated Nationalists fled to the island in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong's Communists.

    The elections in Taiwan involve a diverse bunch of candidates, with a former gangster, a Chinese dissident and heavy-metal singer running for parliament.

    "Taiwan is the only Chinese community in the world that practices democracy," said Benny To, a lecturer from Hong Kong's Community College of City University who is leading a group of 36 students to Taiwan. "There is something we can observe and learn from critically."

    Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen gives a speech before their central standing committee in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov. 4, 2015.
    Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen gives a speech before their central standing committee in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov. 4, 2015.

    High on the itinerary for the Hong Kong tourists are the campaign headquarters of DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen, likely to become the island's first woman president.

    "The Taiwan election is a motivation for us to keep moving towards the goal of democracy," said Nathan Law, a student leader in the Hong Kong protests that sparked what many residents saw as a political awakening. "[In Hong Kong] many politicians, including the chief executive, are not elected by us. It's really depressing."

    A Chinese student from the University of Hong Kong, on a six-day trip to Taiwan, said she was hoping to meet presidential candidates during their last campaign stops.

    "It's like a dream come true," she said.

    You May Like

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    Iran Orders Social Media Sites to Store Data Inside Country

    New requirements are expected to affect the instant messaging app Telegram, which has more than 20 million users inside Iran

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora