As I have noted many times, the biggest obstacle China faces in annexing Taiwan is its democracy. It ain't a perfect one, but it has been incorporated into the social identity of the Taiwanese and is now an important part of being Taiwanese. Hong Kong may be showing where things are heading. From SCMP:
Dangerous and ominous developments are occurring in Hong Kong politics, yet not a single senior official has cared to comment on them. They have, though, had a great deal to say about disruption that might be caused during an event which may not occur next year.Many of us saw in the recent return from China of a major gangster with old connections to Taiwan's security state a signal, perhaps, of where Taiwan might be heading. He subsequently stated that he was going to participate in support of pro-China politics in Taiwan. J Michael Cole has commented forcefully on the use of individuals claiming to be plainclothes police to intimidate and coerce onlookers and journalists here in Taiwan.
Not for the first time, but with greater swagger and clearer evidence of organisation, a bunch of thugs, including triad-linked gangsters, were sent to "deal with" anti-government protesters at the chief executive's public forum in Tin Shui Wai last Sunday.
In case there is a scintilla of doubt as to their intention, Tsang Shu-wo, one of the rural chieftains, proudly admitted that he had mobilised 40 villagers for this event and later said: "It is normal to have bloodshed if we are protecting Yuen Long. Let's see who will shed more blood."
At the demonstration itself, the thugs demanded that the police cease hampering their activities because they were "protecting the government". Fortunately, they were largely ignored and arrests were made, but anyone looking at the many videos of this event will note that the police also stood back while anti-government protesters were attacked. These videos also show it was far from being a spontaneous protest, as those giving the orders were not subtle enough to avoid the cameras.
This is not an isolated incident; I have witnessed an intimidating group of "protesters" outside Broadcasting House who got very angry when, in the spirit of journalism, I asked them what they were protesting about.
There is nothing new about authoritarian governments using gangs of thugs to intimidate opponents. It was a favoured tactic of the former Kuomintang dictatorship in Taiwan before democracy took hold. Today, it is the hallmark of Robert Mugabe's thuggish government in Zimbabwe; and so on. While these governments sit back and allow the thugs to do their work for them, they have the gall to blame their opponents for the violence.
I have been loath to jump to the conclusion that there is an attempt to turn Hong Kong politics in a more violent direction but the evidence is increasingly pointing in that direction.
Fortunately, we have not yet reached the tipping point where thugs hold sway and they are licensed by the government to do their worst - indeed, many frontline police officers are doing their best to prevent this. However, the signs should not be ignored.
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