Hong Kong Support for Taiwanese Independence Surges After Protests

Protesters display placards during a demonstration in Taipei on June 16, 2019, in support of the continuing protests taking place in Hong Kong against a controversial extradition law proposal. - Tens of thousands of people rallied in central Hong Kong on Sunday as public anger seethed following unprecedented clashes between …
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Taiwan has been strongly supportive of the Hong Kong protest movement, and Hong Kongers appear to be returning the favor with surging support for Taiwanese independence.

According to a new survey, support for the independence of Taiwan has reached levels in Hong Kong not seen since 1993.

The survey taken by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) found 43.7 percent of Hong Kong respondents support independence for Taiwan, up from 35 percent at the beginning of the year.

Hong Kongers favored Taiwan participating in the United Nations and various international organizations by 57.2 percent, a policy viciously opposed by China because it confers the legitimacy of an independent nation-state upon Taiwan. This level of support was up slightly from the beginning of the year, but down slightly from its recent peak in August 2018.

Quartz noted on Wednesday that the growing sense of solidarity between Hong Kong demonstrators and the Taiwanese is natural since the Taiwanese have long pointed to Hong Kong’s deteriorating autonomy as evidence they should not accept a similar assimilation arrangement with mainland China.

The same threats to Hong Kong’s autonomy drive the growing support of city residents for Taiwanese defiance of China. Some Hong Kong protesters display signs that warn the Taiwanese not to vote for the more pro-China Kuomintang party and risk coming more firmly under Beijing’s control.

Another source of solidarity is that Hong Kong’s hated extradition bill had its origins in the 2018 murder of a Hong Kong woman by her boyfriend in Taiwan. Advocates of the extradition bill constantly cited the case as a reason Hong Kong’s extradition laws had to be broadened, greatly underestimating how opponents of the bill would remain focused on the danger of China abusing looser extradition laws to abduct Hong Kongers and foreign visitors for political trials.

The punch line lurking beneath this enormous political drama is that Taiwan still very much wants Hong Kong to extradite the accused murderer, but the semi-autonomous status of both Taiwan and Hong Kong prevents it under existing law. 

For reasons of both justice and international politics, Taiwan must continue to insist on the very extradition case that drove the law Hong Kongers protested against in staggering numbers with energetic support from Taiwan. Many people in both Taiwan and Hong Kong are uncomfortable with the status of the murder case, but it has proven very difficult to work out a legal strategy that would put the accused in the dock without compromising the delicately balanced autonomy of one or both islands.

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