(9 Jan 2020) Several dozen students from Hong Kong visited Taipei this week to learn more about democracy in Taiwan ahead of the presidential election on January 11.
The university students, many of them studying journalism, attended a party rally and visited campaign headquarters of leading candidates as part of the educational trip.
Many young people are both fascinated and inspired by the political situation in Taiwan, after months of violent protests divided Hong Kong – a semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Taiwan underwent a largely peaceful transition to full democracy in recent decades and has rejected China’s proposal of unification with the mainland under the same "one country, two systems" formula implemented in Hong Kong.
Since the summer, Hong Kong’s citizens have taken to the streets to call for democracy and various other reforms, and their efforts were largely reflected in a stunning landslide victory by pro-democracy candidates in the city’s recent local election.
While Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she would "seriously reflect" on the election result, she’s yet to give in to many of the protesters’ demands.
For 20-year-old Olivia Tam, a university student majoring in journalism, Taiwan’s political landscape is very different from what she is used to in Hong Kong.
As part of an 8-day trip organized by her university, she watched thousands of opposition Nationalist Party members singing and cheer for their preferred candidate in a festive rally – a stark contrast from Hong Kong where black-clad protesters have taken to the streets week after week, and where tear gas canisters and Molotov cocktails have regularly been used.
"We don’t have such happy rallies in Hong Kong," she said, adding, "Whenever we hold a rally its about something unfavorable to us, we’re protesting against something."
On Saturday Tam and other students will observe a direct presidential election for the first time, which in many ways differs from the system she’s used to.
In Hong Kong, an election committee of 1,200 members vote on behalf of its population of over 7 million.
And another key difference compared to Taiwan is that candidates in Hong Kong must be endorsed by Beijing.
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