President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan came out in support of Hong Kong's pro-democracy Occupy Central demonstrators Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. He urged Beijing to allow for democracy in the semi-autonomous region and suggested doing so could soothe Taiwan's own contentious relationship with mainland China.
“If Hong Kong can soon achieve universal suffrage, it would be a win-win for Hong Kong and the mainland, and it can greatly help narrow the mental gap between residents on both sides of (the Taiwan Strait) and allow for the relations to develop positively,” Ma said. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council echoed Ma’s statement, adding that progress in Hong Kong could foster the long-term development “of democracy and rule of law for the entire Chinese people.”
Occupy Central seeks full democratic elections in Hong Kong free from the interference of the Chinese government per a 1984 agreement between Hong Kong’s former British rulers and China that outlined Hong Kong’s semi-independence following its transfer between the two in 1997. Taiwan has seen a flurry of support and solidarity demonstrations for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement in its capital Taipei since the protests erupted in Hong Kong over the weekend.
Taiwan sit in at Liberty Square to support Hong Kong's Occupy Central pic.twitter.com/c0xXQa3mqQ
â€” Victoria Jen (@victoriajen) October 1, 2014
Taiwan and China share a combative relationship borne out of the Chinese Civil War following World War II. The state of Taiwan is formally known as the Republic of China and was the formal government of China from 1912 until Chinese communists under Mao Zaedong drove its leaders to the island of Taiwan in 1949 and the communist People's Republic of China came to power. Taiwan lost China’s United Nations Security Council seat to the PRC in 1971 and has yet to regain widespread international recognition.
The People’s Republic of China still claims the island of Taiwan, and the ROC government still claims rule over "mainland China," but the latter hasn’t pursued that claim seriously since the international community began shifting its recognition of the official Chinese government from the ROC to the PRC. Since then Taiwan has grown into an economic and democratic powerhouse in Southeast Asia.
Both Taiwan and Hong Kong are part of the "Four Asian Tigers," a nickname for four huge economies in the region, along with Singapore and South Korea. The PRC often tries to bring Taiwan and its booming economy into their jurisdiction under the same “one country, two systems” arrangement between Hong Kong and China, but Taiwan has consistently refused. It did so most recently this week.