Taiwan elections: Hong Kong protesters in Taipei celebrate Tsai Ing-wen’s election victory, hold anti-government demonstration

Kimmy Chung

Hongkongers staged a protest as the crowds dispersed from a victory rally on Saturday for Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, whose re-election was seen by demonstrators as a boost to the city’s anti-government movement.

Dozens of protesters chanted and waved flags after Tsai spoke to supporters outside her campaign headquarters in Taipei to mark her comfortable win in the presidential race.

Those Hong Kong activists who had travelled to Taiwan to follow the elections – billed as a referendum on the island’s relations with Beijing – celebrated Tsai’s victory, calling it a morale boost for their campaign and expressing hope she would support protesters who had fled there.

Kay, a 25-year-old student who has regularly joined city protests since they broke out last June, said Tsai’s achievement in securing a second term was a lift for the anti-government campaign.

“The social atmosphere is very depressing in Hong Kong, as we cannot see how the movement could succeed,” she said in Taipei.

“Tsai’s victory is an encouragement to Hongkongers. I know Taiwan has walked through undemocratic days … but Tsai has held up the banner of democracy and vowed to block Beijing’s influence.”

Tsai, who is from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), netted more than 8 million votes in Saturday’s election – millions more than her main challenger Han Kuo-yu, who is from the mainland China-friendly Kuomintang.

Taiwan elections: Tsai Ing-wen re-elected as rival concedes defeat

The DPP also secured a thumping victory in the island’s legislative elections, maintaining its majority in the Legislative Yuan.

National sovereignty, democracy and the relationship between Taipei and Beijing have dominated this year’s elections amid accusations of mainland interference in Taiwan and the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

Tsai Ing-wen celebrates her re-election as president of Taiwan on Saturday. Photo: EPA-EFE

In her victory speech, Tsai mentioned Hong Kong when she said the result proved she had “safeguarded Taiwan”.

“Many democratic countries, as well as friends in Hong Kong, will be glad,” she said, to rounds of applause from the crowd.

She later tweeted a photo thanking Taiwan, in which she bowed to her supporters, with a black flag bearing the city movement’s popular slogan “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times” clearly visible.

Hong Kong protests loom large in Taiwan polls. But who benefits?

A 24-year-old Hongkonger, who gave his name as M, attended the rally with one of those flags.

“Taiwan’s democracy and freedoms remind us what we are fighting for in our home,” he said. “It also proves Chinese people deserve democracy.”

A Hong Kong protester at the Taiwan rally is draped in a flag bearing the movement’s rallying cry of ‘Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times’. Photo: Kimmy Chung

Celebrating Tsai’s re-election, he hoped she could also help those Hongkongers who had fled to Taiwan.

There are an estimated 200 protesters who have retreated to the self-ruled island, fearing arrest after taking part in protests.

Anthony Kwok, 54, a businessman from Hong Kong, also called for protections for them. “I hope the government will really act out their words in taking care of the youngsters who fled here,” he said.

“It is the situation from Hong Kong that boosted the turnout, and even Tsai’s popularity.”

Kwok said there was a bittersweet element to Tsai’s victory.

“Many Hongkongers envy Taiwan’s democratic system and hope Hong Kong could have elections in the same way one day. Hongkongers need to fight on.”

“I hope Beijing can draw a lesson too – a hardline approach against Hong Kong will only provoke stronger opposition.”

Unpacking the Hong Kong protests factor in Taiwan’s election

As well as the Hong Kong protesters travelling on their own accord, about 30 delegations, totalling 700 people, visited Taiwan in an official capacity for the elections, according to Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council.

Believed to be a record-breaking number, they came from sectors and organisations including pro-democracy parties, civic groups and media associations. About 100 of them were district councillors.

The Hong Kong protests started in June with a peaceful mass rally against the now-withdrawn extradition bill, but escalated into a wider anti-government movement with radical elements resorting to violence.

Unmet demands of the campaign include establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate police conduct during demonstrations and restarting the city’s stalled political reform process.

Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen said Tsai had successfully used a “fear approach” which linked the city’s extradition bill to draw in votes.

“Of course it’s a genuine fear, but everyone could see that before the anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong, Tsai was at a disadvantage,” Chan said on a radio programme on Sunday.

“But the situation surprised many Taiwanese and they do not want to become the next Hong Kong.

“If Tsai has to come to Hong Kong and thank the protesters, she should also consider showing gratitude to Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor, the liaison office and Hong Kong police who stirred things up.”

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