Special Forum

After 160 years of non-democratic colonial rule by the British, Hong Kong became part of China in 1997 under a mini-constitution, the Basic Law, that guaranteed a number of democratic civic values and pledged eventual universal suffrage for both the executive and the legislature. Since the handover, there have been protest movements demanding fulfillment of those pledges, led primarily by young people.  At the same time, a distinct Hong Kong identity has emerged, again largely among the younger generation.  Many who see themselves as Hong Kongers also explicitly add that they are “not Chinese.” There have been parallel developments across the Taiwan Strait.  Taiwan also experienced colonial rule by the Japanese for fifty years after 1895, until the Chinese Nationalists (the Kuomintang or KMT) accepted the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II.  The KMT took over the island and imposed one-party rule and martial law until 1987.  In the late 1980s, an intense debate over Taiwan’s national identity, on which the two major political parties, the ruling KMT and the newly legalized Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), took opposing views, became an integral part of Taiwan’s struggle for democracy.

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