New York, Sept. 7 (CNA) Overseas Taiwanese on the East Coast of the United States took to the streets of Manhattan on Saturday in a march to promote Taiwan's desire to join the United Nations that featured elements of Hong Kong's anti-extradition bill movement.
The annual "Keep Taiwan Free" march came ahead of the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 17.
An estimated 500 participants from Taiwanese communities in the Greater New York and surrounding area participated in the 4.8-km march. They gathered at Astor Place near New York University around noon and marched to the Chinese Consulate-General on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan.
In a departure from past events, the march did not pass by the U.N. headquarters, event organizers said.
The change was made in the hope of drawing wider attention to the issue of Taiwan's desire to officially join the U.N., according to event organizer "Keep Taiwan Free."
In addition, Hong Kong's anti-extradition bill movement was highlighted in this year's march, it said.
Since June, several protests have been held against a proposed bill in Hong Kong that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to China for trial.
Although that bill was withdrawn last week, the protests have since morphed into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms in the territory, a special administrative region of China.
Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), a member of Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who participated in the march, said that drawing a lesson from Hong Kong, it is clear that Taiwan's freedom and democracy have not just fallen from the sky but are the result of achievements attained by the blood and sweat of many Taiwanese over the years.
Taiwan needs to continue to strive to protect its democracy, freedom and human rights, she said.
As Hong Kong's anti-government protesters have sustained their momentum for three months, the event organizers also invited Hong Kong protesters to speak by the side of a makeshift Lennon Wall, at Astor Place, to show their support for Hong Kong people's aspirations for democracy and freedom.
Such a structure was adopted in Hong Kong as a symbol of freedom and opposition to communism.
Frances Hui (許穎婷), a Hong Kong student studying in the U.S. and a former member of a student movement organization in Hong Kong, described China's "one country, two systems" policy, under which Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy for half a century, as a lie.
One thing Hong Kong wants to tell Taiwanese people is "if you advocate democracy and freedom, then please continue to go along with us, to keep protecting Taiwan's democracy and Hong Kong's freedom," she said.
Many post-it notes with "Hong Kong, Go," were placed on the Lennon Wall, while the five demands issued by Hong Kong protesters were shown on mobile bulletin boards carried by several bicycles.
The march lasted about two hours and ended with participants delivering speeches and shouting slogans on the street opposite the Chinese Consulate-General in New York to express opposition to China's oppression of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang. The event organizers put the turnout at about 500.
The universality of values the U.N. stands for should be extended to Taiwan, while its 23 million people should not be left out of the global effort to achieve the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said Hsu Li-wen (徐儷文), head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York.
The Permanent Representative of the Marshall Islands to the United Nations, Amatlain Elizabeth Kabua, also said Taiwan's 23 million people is part of the big U.N. family and should be allowed to join the world body.
Also among the high-profile attendees was Stephen Yates, a deputy national security adviser to former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney from 2001-2005. He said this year's march is particularly important because developments in Hong Kong clearly show the world China's position on the rule of law.
Yates told CNA that with the January general elections in Taiwan drawing near, it is a key moment to display support for Taiwan as it faces growing threats and pressure from China.
The Republic of China (Taiwan) lost its U.N. membership in 1971, following the passage of a resolution stating that the People's Republic of China was the only legitimate representative of China at the international body.
In 1993, Taiwan's government launched an unsuccessful campaign to reclaim its place in the U.N.
In 2007, during the DPP administration of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the government sought U.N. membership under the name Taiwan, but that campaign got nowhere.
Under the Kuomintang (KMT) administration from 2008-2016, the government did not apply to re-enter the U.N. under the name Republic of China or apply for new U.N. membership as Taiwan, deciding instead to focus on achieving more meaningful participation in U.N.-affiliated organizations.
Since coming to power in May 2016, the DPP administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has adopted an approach similar to that of the previous KMT government, including asking Taiwan's diplomatic allies to speak at the U.N. General Assembly in support of more "meaningful participation" for Taiwan.