Why Taiwan Won’t Welcome China’s Dissidents

Hong Kong protesters and Chinese political dissidents often look to democratic Taiwan as a place for shelter—but its government has little interest in providing it.

The Nation
Date: December 6, 2019
By: Nick AspinwallTwitter

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, left, walks past a Taiwan national flag during an offshore anti-terrorism drill in New Taipei City, Taiwan, in May. (AP Photo / Chiang Ying-ying)

Li Jiabao, a 21-year-student from China’s Shandong province, first experienced the world beyond the censorship of his homeland when he came to Taiwan on a four-month study abroad program in 2018. The Chinese Communist Party claims sovereignty over Taiwan even though it has never governed it, and for Li, the difference between the island and the mainland was evident—particularly when it came to its vibrant media scene. Li dove in, reading the BBC’s website and The Economist, watching TV news of every political orientation, and becoming a devotee of a popular Taiwanese YouTube show that satirizes the state-run China Central Television. He later discovered the works of Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident author and Nobel laureate who died in 2017 as a prisoner of the state. Soon after returning home, he decided that he would make it back to Taiwan and speak out against the Chinese government.

“I knew this decision would change my future and change my life,” he said. “I knew maybe, in my life, I might not be able to go back to China.”

Li returned to Taiwan in February, where he has watched Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s president, win plaudits for presenting her nation as a pillar of democracy and human rights. Tsai, whose political party favors the eventual independence of Taiwan as a recognized entity separate from China, has supported the protesters in Hong Kong, opposed the erosion of religious freedom in China, and overseen the passage of Asia’s first law permitting same-sex marriages.

To Tsai, Taiwan could be a beacon for Hong Kong—and eventually even China. “We call on China to bravely move towards democracy,” she said in a January speech. “This is the only way they can truly understand Taiwanese people’s ideas and commitments.”    [FULL  STORY]

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