Taipei, Jan. 14 (CNA) Chinese tourists and dissidents, attracted by Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections, said they admired the island's electoral politics for developing in a moderate and civilized way.
Near a polling station in Taitung County's Chengkung Township, a group of Chinese tourists marveled at the long line of voters waiting to cast their ballots Saturday.
"I'm curious how Taiwanese vote," said a Chinese tourist who asked their tour guide to stop the bus near the polling station so they could take pictures. Under Taiwan's election rules, observers can only take photos 30 meters or more away from a polling station.
The Chinese tourists wanted to take photos of voters from the Amis tribe who wore their traditional robes, making the scene look like a carnival.
They also witnessed a local council representative, who had returned all the way from his business in Vietnam, casting his vote.
Kuo Ching-tu, of Luyeh Township, Taitung, said he had spent almost NT$10,000 (US$333) on an airplane ticket so he could cast his vote, a vote that he said "was well worth the money."
In Taipei, where a group of Chinese scholars and overseas dissidents gathered Friday to discuss what they had seen during their week-long visit to Taiwan, even more eulogistic remarks were made to express their admiration for Taiwan's political progress.
Zhang Jian, a Chinese dissident from France, said his first visit to Taiwan led him to conclude that Taiwan's electoral process was progressing "at a high level" and Taiwan's democracy was "truly remarkable."
While in Taichung on Friday at a campaign rally that featured opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen, Zhang met an old lady who told him: "I want to tell you that each of us must take responsibility for our own future."
He said he was deeply moved by the old lady, whose serious attitude toward her own political future showed that "in terms of democracy, mainland China is indeed lagging far behind Taiwan."
"I really feel so wonderful that everything we've lost in China has been rediscovered here in Taiwan," said Zhang, who added that Tsai had said, Taiwan, with its democracy, would naturally attract Chinese people to visit.
"See? Here I am, attracted by Taiwan's democracy," he said.
The Chinese dissident went on to comment on Beijing's attempt to unify China and Taiwan under its "one country, two system" formula, questioning, "Who will unify whom?" and emphasizing that "a democratic Taiwan will bring despotic China under its fold."
Yang Wei, a long-time democracy activist living in New York, told CNA that after visiting the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and the campaign headquarters of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and opposition DPP, his concern was dispelled that they "might be accusing each other."
"I hope they can cooperate well because they have a more formidable challenge in front of them -- the Communist Party of China across the strait," said Yang, who has been a democracy advocate since 1984.
He said he was shocked to find that MAC Minister Lai Shin-yuan, formerly a staunch advocate of the pan-green's pro-independence platform, had done a pretty good job as the island's top mainland affairs official, a far cry from her former position as a member of the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
Yang said Lai's example fully demonstrated that some people's worry about the "ideological conflict between the pan-blue and the pan-green camps" was unwarranted.
Bei Feng, a senior executive of the Hong Kong-based China SunTV, found that both the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou and the DPP's Tsai were "rational, civilized, moderate and polite" while pushing their respective political agendas.
"I've not seen many radical or emotional appeals (from either camp), much less violence," said Bei, whose real name is Wen Chaoyun.
He said he believed the 2012 elections had "established Taiwan's democracy," and he forecasted no ethnic strife or electioneering would be ignited whoever won Saturday's vote.
"The smooth deepening and entrenchment of Taiwan's democracy is, to me, a tremendously remarkable development," said Bei.
He added that Taiwan's democracy would serve as a model for China as its previous drawbacks had gradually been rectified by a "moderating force" which had guided the current election toward a "more rational, more middle-of-the-way" development.
Another Chinese academic, who declined to be named, said candidates had raised fewer ethnic or ideological issues during their recently concluded campaigns, but rather had focused on issues related to people's livelihoods, an indication that Taiwan's democracy was "fast maturing."
The Chinese observers made their remarks at a seminar held at the National Taiwan University chaired by NTU professors Ming Chu-cheng and Chang Ching-hsi.
(by Chen Hung-chin, Tyson Lu and S.C. Chang)