Hong Kong protests a key factor in election results: scholars - Focus Taiwan

2020 ELECTIONS / Hong Kong protests a key factor in election results: scholars

CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Jan. 14 (CNA) The Hong Kong protests were a key factor impacting the results of the recent presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan, local scholars have said.

The protests, which began in June 2019 over a since-withdrawn extradition bill, have morphed into calls for full democracy and closer scrutiny of the police in the special administrative region of China.

Jay Chen (陳志柔), deputy director of the Institute of Sociology at Academia Sinica, told CNA in an interview Tuesday that according to research conducted by the institute, the Hong Kong protests, as well as younger voters and college-educated voters, propelled President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her party to victory.

The Jan. 11 presidential and legislative elections saw Tsai re-elected by nearly 20 percentage points over her main opponent Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the Kuomintang (KMT).

Tsai's party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), also retained its majority in the Legislature with 61 of the 113 seats.

According to the results of a telephone survey conducted between Nov. 18 and Dec. 6, 2019, 37 percent of respondents who stated their voting inclinations said they strongly supported the Hong Kong protests, while 31 percent said they supported it, Chen said.

Of the former group of respondents, 87 percent said they would vote for Tsai, while 60 percent of the latter group expressed the same inclination, Chen said, adding that they found a significant correlation between the two opinions.

This shows that the protests in Hong Kong had an influence on Taiwanese voters, Chen said.

The support of younger voters, defined in the survey as those aged 40 and below, and college-educated voters also helped Tsai and the DPP, Chen said.

Approximately 72 percent of younger voters surveyed were planning on voting for Tsai, while 60 percent of college-educated voters were leaning towards the DPP, according to the survey results.

Chao Chun-shan (趙春山), a professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of China Studies, also believes that the Hong Kong protests played an important role in the elections.

Another factor that led to Tsai's victory, in Chao's opinion, was a speech in January 2019 made by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

In the speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan", Xi said that Taiwan "must and will be" united with China based on the "1992 consensus" under the "one China principle."

The consensus Xi referred to was a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the then KMT government and the Chinese government.

The consensus has been consistently interpreted by the KMT as both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledging there is only "one China" with each free to interpret what "China" means.

However, Beijing has never publicly recognized the second part of the KMT interpretation.

In the Jan. 2 speech, Xi also said that the "one country, two systems" formula is the best approach to achieving unification.

Xi's insistence that Taiwan be united with China, as well as the subsequent Hong Kong protests, which many in Taiwan saw as a failure of the "one country, two systems" formula proposed by Beijing, led to voters in Taiwan supporting Tsai, Chao said.

Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), president of the Prospect Foundation, agrees.

A key moment that paved the way for Tsai's victory was her response to Xi's speech in January, Lai told CNA on Saturday.

Tsai's response made people think that she was willing to stand up for Taiwan and its sovereignty, and altered people's image of her as someone who was cautious and indecisive, Lai said.

The protests in Hong Kong also drove more young people to vote in the election, a major factor in the final result, Lai noted.

(By Phoenix Hsu, Chen Chih-Chung and Chiang Yi-ching)

Enditem/AW

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