Sunflower Movement’s Messages to Hongkongers

Apple Daily

12th April, 2014

Sunflower Movement’s Messages to Hongkongers

太陽花給香港人的啟示

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After occupying the Legislative Yuan for 24 days, Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement is leaving the Yuan. Students of the movement said, “we came with hope and now leave with responsibilities!” The retreat is not an end of the movement. Instead, the movement has turned to the next stage focusing on spreading the concepts and believes. Apple Daily’s report says, “they (the students) did not only stop China, a massive country, but also reminded Hongkongers, who are longing for universal suffrage and wondering if we should occupy Central, a famous Plato saying ‘One of the penalities for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors’.” – a message the Sunflower Movement has sent to Hong Kong.

Former Senior Vice President of the World Bank, Justin Lin Yifu who defected from Taiwan to China 35 years ago, spoke at Boao Forum recently that, “every bit of consideration should be given to Taiwan’s economic development and any discussions that fail to address this are pointless.” He added that, “watching all the opportunities being seized by others, we, Taiwanese, in China are very sad.” Lin, however, is an economic think-tank within the CCP system. Like many other CCP scholars, he expressed the Communist Party’s views not a Taiwanese’s views.

Amongst the intensive debates over ECFA, many owners of large corporates in Taiwan support ECFA, and some even threaten Taiwanese (about the loss of economic opportunities) just like Lin. However, some pointed out that the core of any economy is about the development of all industries and relying on ECFA does not guarantee that Taiwan’s economic issues can be resolved. More importantly, Jimmy Lai Chee-ying (founder of Apple Daily) said in his recent commentary that the Sunflower Movement allows him to see that beyond money and bread, dignity is still important to people, “(I can) see the sadness of people who live in a prosperous ruins with no dignity.” Local entrepreneurs in Taiwan share similar views: PeterCILee, a small business owner in Taiwan, said in his article that he supports students’ anti-ECFA movement even  thought he could benefit from ECFA, he does not want to see the fall of Taiwan simply because it is his country and home.

To some people in Taiwan and Hong Kong, China’s economic boom is an opportunity that they must seize. However, globalisation is not all about China. Another Taiwan commentary said, “when Taiwan (businesses) were not (operating) in China, no one would blame Taiwanese for adopting a ‘closed-door policy’ because Taiwan was trading with the international world. Now, when Taiwan started to enter China, it seems to have forgotten that there is a whole wide world beyond China. Government officials who look after Taiwan’s economy and trade used to focus on liberalisation and internationalisation with an aim to be part of the global economy. Now, these officials focuses on liberalisation that simply lock Taiwan up in a much smaller world, that is called China.”

Some large corporates in Taiwan refuse to be locked up in the “China-only-world”, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) which accounts for over 10% of the total capitalisation of Taiwan’s equity market. In the past 20 years, many Taiwanese businesses move their production headquarter to China because of the lower costs, but TSMC is one of the only few that remain rooted in Taiwan yet eyeing global opportunities – all high-end productions are based in Taiwan, the headquarter of its productions. TSMC’s net profit after tax in 2013 amounted to USD6.3 billion, and achieved its record high share price. Economic commentators warned Taiwan entrepreneurs that: as you move the manufacturing hubs from Taiwan to China, which benefits China’s economy, you are leaving behind high unemployment and low wage in Taiwan. Perhaps it is time for all Taiwanese to think if they should follow TSMC’s example and leave some opportunities for their home country, Taiwan.

Hong Kong’s CEPA and Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) are good examples: Hongkongers saw the immediate and short-term economic benefits of them and gave up the unique qualities of Hong Kong that attracts international tourists and investments in the name of making a quick buck. When nouveau riche come to Hong Kong via IVS occupies every corner of our home, tourists from the rest of the world are discouraged to come to Hong Kong.

The Sunflower Movement ended temporarily because Legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng pledged to halt debate on ECFA until Cross-Strait Agreement Supervision Ordinance is passed. This is the short-term goal the Movement wanted to achieve, but students in this movement’s long-term goals are much bigger: call for a constitution congress to be participated by citizens, to lower the thresholds of referendum on constitutional amendments, including dismissal (of president), in order to advance to direct democracy, so that complex proposals and issues, including whether or not to abolish nuclear power plants and ECFA, will be decided by the people via referendum. Taiwan, like many western countries, have realised the problems of the representative system, for example, the poor quality of legislators and their high absence rate at legislature meetings. Therefore, Taiwan citizens are demanding direct democracy (referendum), semi-direct democracy (polling and “citizens’ congress”) to be added into the system, so that citizens can gain power in important decisions the country has to make.

All these proposed by Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement are in line with the latest democratic trends in the West, with an aim to enhance Taiwan’s democratic level. Hong Kong’s universal suffrage/political reform is going nowhere, the pan-democrats who are discussing political reform with China’s officials in Shanghai share no common proposal and strategy. Taiwan’s democratic movements, comparing to that in Hong Kong, is way more advanced.

Lin Yifu, a quisling of the CCP, said that Taiwan has nothing else to compete with others if economy is not moving forward. This is wrong. Just like what Jimmy Lai said in his article that Taiwanese have made him realised what dignity is and that “human beings should not focus solely on economic advancement”. Perhaps Lin should reflect on one thing: China is so poor that it has only got money left, what else can China compete with the world?

What is dignity? According to Immanuel Kant, human dignity is related to human agency, and is shown via the ability of humans to choose their own actions, and the core of it all is free will. If a person or a race has no free will, he or the race is/are only slaves to others with no dignity. If we agree with the dignity of Taiwan’s localism, Hongkongers should also reestablish such dignity – one with no self-consciousness has no right to ask for democracy. This is the core message the Sunflower Movement has sent to Hong Kong.

By Lee Yee

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