Video: How 'One Country, Two Systems' is 'Irrelevant' to Taiwanese

At Asia Society in New York on January 27, Yu-jie Chen, research scholar at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute of NYU School of Law, discusses the influence of Hong Kong on the minds of Taiwanese. (1 min., 41 sec.)

When Hong Kong was returned to China from Great Britain in 1997, it was done under the promise of "One Country, Two Systems," an arrangement in which mainland China's Communist rulers wouldn't interfere with Hong Kong's political and legal systems for the next 50 years. However, recent moves by China — such as refusing to allow open nominations for the city's chief executive, trying to control Hong Kong's press, and allegedly abducting publishers of politically sensitive books — have raised questions about the validity of that promise. This development has been watched with increasing skepticism in another place China hopes to apply the "One Country, Two Systems" model: Taiwan. 

"Taiwan definitely doesn't feel that Hong Kong is an example for the island," said Yu-jie Chen, a research scholar on human rights developments in Taiwan and China at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at New York University. 

Speaking on a panel about the implications of Taiwan's recent election at Asia Society in New York on Wednesday, Chen noted that there have been connections and "an increasing solidarity" between people in Hong Kong and Taiwan regarding mainland policies. For example, Taiwan's Sunflower Movement in 2014 — which featured popular protests against a trade bill with China — was echoed in Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement against the chief executive nomination process later that year. 

However, Chen noted that in spite of frequent suggestions to the contrary, China's encroachment into Hong Kong has had a limited effect on the perceptions of Taiwanese people.

"'One Country, Two Systems' is irrelevant to Taiwan," Chen said. "Both to the Taiwan government and Taiwanese people. So all the horrible things you see on Taiwanese TV about, for example, Hong Kong's disappearing book sellers, just enhances that impression. But it doesn't change minds, because minds have already been in a very different place than China wanted them to be."

In the video clip posted above, Chen discussses the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China, and how it relates to Taiwan. Watch the full panel with Chen, Jerome Cohen, Douglas Paal, and Orville Schell in the video below.

(L to R) Douglas Paal, Jerome Cohen, Yu-jie Chen, and Orville Schell discuss the consequences of Taiwan's recent election at Asia Society in New York on January 27. (1 hr., 22 min.)

About the Author

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Eric Fish was a Content Producer at Asia Society New York and is author of the book China's Millennials: The Want Generation.