Taipei, June 10 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and former Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) showed support on Monday for a massive protest in Hong Kong a day earlier and used the opportunity to once again bash the "one country, two systems" formula China uses to govern Hong Kong.
Hong Kongers were protesting a controversial extradition bill that would allow people in the former British territory to be sent to China to face trial, something they fear because of their lack of trust in China's judiciary system.
They also worry the bill will only further strengthen Beijing's growing influence in Hong Kong, even though the city was supposed to retain its own legal and political systems for 50 years under the "one country, two systems" framework after it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Tsai of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) backed the demonstrations in Hong Kong, and stressed that freedom, democracy, and human rights should be safeguarded as they are as essential as air.
Tsai pledged that as long as she is Taiwan's president, she will never accept "one country, two systems," the formula China has proposed for unification with Taiwan.
Tsai has been stressing the theme since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) again mentioned "one country, two systems," which has no popular support in Taiwan, as an approach for bringing Taiwan into the fold in a speech at the beginning of the year.
It has been part of a broader focus on China since January to bolster her sagging approval ratings, which contributed to a big DPP defeat in last November's elections for local government offices.
Tsai is now facing an internal challenge for her party's nomination in the 2020 presidential election from former Premier Lai, who also commented on the protests in Hong Kong.
former Premier Lai Ching-te (center)
Lai urged people in Taiwan to root for Hong Kongers who took to the streets to demonstrate against the controversial extradition bill.
Hong Kong's unsuccessful fight for the full implementation of "one country, two systems" shows that it is unlikely China will ever grant Taiwan peace, Lai said at a campaign event in Yunlin County.
In the DPP presidential primary pitting Tsai against Lai, the winner will be decided by how well they fare in opinion polls conducted from June 10 to June 14.
The polls will put each of them against two potential opponents in next January's election, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), an independent.
Lai took issue with Han's comment on Sunday that Han was unaware of the Hong Kong protest, saying that Han knew about the situation but did not dare speak out against China.
"How can you expect Han to safeguard Taiwan?" Lai said.
Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu
In response, Han issued a statement Monday saying that the majority of Taiwanese people think "one country, two systems" does not apply to Taiwan, regardless of how it is being implemented in Hong Kong.
"I would like to express my unquestionable determination to defend the Republic of China, Taiwan's democratic system and its lifestyle," he said in the statement.
When asked to comment on the Hong Kong demonstrations at a Dragon Boat Festival event Sunday, Han replied "I don't know (about them), I have no idea."
Meanwhile, Ko urged authorities in China on Monday to tread carefully when dealing with Hong Kong issues, noting that Beijing's behavior there is watched closely by Taiwan.
"There is no need [for the authorities] to confront public opinion," he said.
When asked if he had a clear position on the idea of "one country, two systems", Ko said there was no need to hurl insults at China.
"But does [one country, two systems] work? Do we even have to talk about it. Everyone knows [the answer]," he said.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je
Ko previously suggested Taiwan should remain silent on the topic because discussions regarding the formula have created an unmanageable vicious circle.
While Ko opted to sidestep the issue, former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), one of the KMT's presidential primary contenders, said Taiwan will never accept" one country, two systems."
"It has never been an option [for Taiwan]," he said.
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to protest the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance amendment bill, but despite the demonstration, Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, said on Monday she had no plans to withdraw the bill.
former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu
(By Wang Cheng-chung, Chang Ming-hsuan, Liang Pei-chi, Yeh Tze-kung, Wang Hung-guo, Wang Shwu-fen and Chung Yu-chen)