Hong Kong Activists Applaud Taiwan’s Historic Recall Election

June 7, 2020 Updated: June 7, 2020

Hong Kong democracy activists said they were greatly inspired by the historical recall election in Taiwan on June 6, after a Beijing-friendly mayor was voted out for being “unfit” for office.

Han Kuo-yu, who’s aligned himself with authoritarian China’s interest, has been booted as mayor of #Kaohsiung by democratic vote,” tweeted Joshua Wong, the secretary-general of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy party Demosistō on Saturday evening, after the election results.

Wong added: “A great victory for #democracy and a clear message from Taiwanese saying ‘no’ to [Chinese leader] Xi Jinping and Beijing’s influence on #Taiwan.”

In southern Taiwan’s city of Kaohsiung, more than 939,000 voted in favor, while slightly over 25,000 voted against, the recall of mayor Han Kuo-yu, a member of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party. The vote marked the first time that a Taiwanese official was removed this way.

The overwhelming vote for the recall was driven in part by local anger at Han’s decision to run for president less than a year after he was elected mayor in November 2018. In interviews with the local edition of The Epoch Times, locals said they were displeased that he devoted a lot of time on his presidential campaign, while failing to fulfill his mayoral campaign promises to improve the city.

Han lost in the January 2020 presidential election to the incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen, who is a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Han’s close ties to Beijing are well known in both Taiwan and Hong Kong. In March 2019, just a few months after being elected mayor, Han traveled to Hong Kong and held meetings with the city’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam and Wang Zhimin, then the head of the Hong Kong Liaison Office, Beijing’s representative agency in the city.

Following his trip to Hong Kong and Macau, Han also traveled to China’s southern city of Shenzhen, where he met with Liu Yieyi, head of Taiwan Affairs Office, an agency under China’s State Council.

Chinese state-run media have been vocal in supporting Han. Days after Han’s meeting with Liu in 2019, Global Times published an article praising Han’s efforts at “advancing cross-strait relations.”

Most recently, on June 5, a day before the recall election, People’s Daily published an opinion article, praising Han’s achievements as mayor, while accusing the DPP of “intentionally going after” Han and slamming Taiwan’s democracy as “deception in politics.”

Global Times also published an article about Han’s concession speech following the results of the recall election. In his speech, Han attributed his defeat to “distorted, slanderous, and unfounded criticism.”

Han’s defeat reflected growing public antagonism against Beijing and its proposal to bring Taiwan—which it considers part of its territory—under its domain using the “one country, two systems” model.

The Chinese regime adopted this framework to rule Hong Kong after the city’s sovereignty was handed over from Britain to China in 1997.

Hong Kong Activists 

Sunny Cheung, a local pro-democracy activist, took to his Facebook page on Saturday evening to applaud Taiwan’s election result. He said it was “not an overstatement” to call Han someone who “works for” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as Chinese state-run media continually praised his accomplishments as mayor.

Cheung also compared Taiwan’s democracy—where people can vote out their officials—to Hong Kong’s current state, wherein the “one country, two systems” model is “completely lost.”

Current Hong Kong leader Lam has remained in office despite high disapproval ratings.

He said this was possible because she has the support of Beijing.

The Hong Kong leader, called the chief executive, is elected by a 1,200-member election committee—a mostly pro-Beijing body chosen by a small group of eligible voters. There are roughly seven million Hong Kong residents.

In addition, only 35 of the 70 members of the territory’s lawmaking body, the Legislative Council (LegCo), are directly chosen by Hong Kong’s voters. The remaining seats, elected by special interest groups, are occupied by pro-Beijing lawmakers.

“Without democracy, there is no way to put a check on a government that is out of control,” wrote Cheung, criticizing the Hong Kong government.

Alvin Yeung, a lawmaker from the pro-Democracy Civic Party, wrote on Facebook that Hongkongers were extremely envious of Taiwanese people, who have the power to vote directly.

Yeung pointed out that the pro-democracy camp has long been fighting for universal suffrage. He also questioned whether the pro-Beijing camp was fearful of a direct election, because their candidates do not have the majority of voters’ support.

In elections for local district councillors held last November—the only political office where candidates are directly elected—pro-democracy candidates won the majority of seats.

Citizens’ Press Conference, an advocacy group established by Hong Kong protesters, issued a statement congratulating people of Kaohsiung, saying they defended their homes using their votes against China’s “brutal unification apparatus.”

They added that protesters will keep in mind Taiwan’s freedoms as they continue to advocate for greater democracy in Hong Kong.

Nathan Law, of the pro-democracy Demosisto party, wrote on his Facebook: “When we successfully free Hong Kong, I hope that Hong Kong will be just like how Taiwan is today—the envy of others.”

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer