Democratic Developments in Asia: Implications of the Hong Kong Demonstrations for Cross-Straits Relations

On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security welcomed Christopher K. Johnson, senior adviser and Freeman chair in China studies of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, and Alan D. Romberg, distinguished fellow and director, East Asia program of the Stimson Center for the event titled “Democratic Developments in Asia: Implications of the Hong Kong Demonstrations for Cross-Straits Relations.” The event was welcomed by the Scowcroft Center’s Barry Pavel, vice president and director, and was moderated by David Wertime, senior editor of the Tea Leaf Nation at Foreign Policy. The focus of the event was the current protests in Hong Kong and its implications to the political and social issues in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China.

In their remarks and the following Q&A session, the panelists focused on the effects of the Hong Kong protests on the city itself, China as a whole, and the political relations with Taiwan. The overarching consensus amongst the panelists was that the idea of two systems in one country is a difficult challenge for the Chinese government. The two systems are the communist system of China and the more independent and democratic Hong Kong, and Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory. Although the situations in Hong Kong and Taiwan are similar, the panelists did not believe that the protests in Hong Kong were having any major political implications in Taiwan.

Especially under the reign of President Xi Jinping, China has tried to consolidate and expand its power throughout East Asia, and the declining sovereignty of Hong Kong has been a result of that. Although the protests have brought international attention and criticism, the panelists agreed that the Chinese government was not going to make any reforms to accommodate the protestors and will wait for the protests to die down. The goal of the Chinese government is to ensure that Hong Kong realizes its place in Chinese government, culture, and society. Although the Chinese government does not seem to take the current protests in Hong Kong to be a serious threat, the panelists believe that the harsh treatment over the protestors and the refusal to acknowledge the voices of the youth could lead to bigger problems in the future.