Hong Kong will postpone Legislative Council elections originally scheduled for Sept. 6 by one year, citing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. In making the announcement July 31, Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked the city's Emergency Regulations Ordinance. (HKFP, RTHK) But Beijing's political imperatives are pretty clearly behind the decision. This was acknowledged by Lau Siu-kai, vice president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macau Studies, Beijing's own leading think-tank on the semi-autonomous territories. Framing the issue in Great Power terms, Lau said that "the serious international situation between the United States and China...prompts Beijing into doing something to prevent the hostile forces from taking over LegCo and to make sure that the national security is safeguarded." (RTHK)
Hong Kong pro-democracy group Demosisto announced it will disband following China's enactment of a "National Security Law" that extends Beijing's control over the semi-autonomous city. The decision to disband came hours after three of the group's leading activists, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Agnes Chow, issued statements saying they were stepping down from the organization under threat of "political imprisonment."
At a rally at Taipei's Liberty Square marking the one-year anniversary of the start of the Hong Kong protest movement June 13, demonstrators held banners that read: "Taiwan and Hong Kong are partners together, the struggle remains unfinished," and "Against the expansion of Chinese imperialism." (Taipei Times) Earlier that day, demonstrators gathered in Taipei's 228 Memorial Park for a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States. Some speakers drew parallels between the contemporary police brutality in the US and the repression of dissidents during the White Terror of Taiwan's authoritarian past.
In an alarming tit-for-tat June 9, Taiwan's defense ministry said that several Chinese fighter jets briefly entered the country's air defense identification zone, and the US took the unusual move of flying a C-40A military transport plane over Taiwan. The US overflight was assailed by Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office as "an illegal act and a seriously provocative incident." This comes as the US is deploying two aircraft carrier strike groups to the Pacific—the San Diego-based USS Nimitz and the Yokosuka-based USS Ronald Reagan. These join the USS Theodore Roosevelt, also based in San Diego but now patrolling the Philippine Sea near Guam. This marks the first time in three years that three US strike gorups have been simultaneously deployed to the Pacific, in what is being seen as an explicit warning to China. The triple deployment follows accusations by Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, commander of US forces in Japan, that China is using the coronavirus crisis as a cover to push territorial claims in the South China Sea. "Through the course of the COVID crisis we saw a surge of maritime activity," Schneider told Reuters. (The Hill, The Hill, USNI News, Reuters, AP)
It's certainly an irony that with police-state measures mounting worldwide to enforce lockdowns and contain COVID-19, Trump is now claiming sweeping executive power to lift lockdowns in the US in spite of the pandemic. Asserting his prerogative to override state governors and order economies open again, Trump stated April 13: "When someone is president of the United States, the authority is total." After requisite media outcry, he later reiterated this assertion on Twitter. (NYT, The Guardian) The response in media and the Twittersphere has been to call this out as blatantly unconstitutional. While it is, of course, necessary to point out the illegitimacy of Trump's pretended power-grab, it is also side-stepping the real threat here: of the pandemic being exploited to declare an actual "state of exception" in which constitutional restraints are suspended altogether—perhaps permanently.
Some 1,000 activists from various civic groups marched in Taipei on Feb. 22, commemorating the 73rd anniversary of the "228 Incident"—the 1947 uprising and massacre that marked the beginning of Taiwan's "White Terror." Li Ssu-yi, chair of TW Gong Sheng, a youth group dedicated to remembrance of the Incident, said, "We refuse to forget and insist on carrying on the spirit of what they fought for during this year's march." Other participating groups included the Taiwan Association for Human Rights and the Dr. Chen Wen-chen Memorial Foundation—named for a student activist killed on probable orders of the regime in 1981. The route of the march passed various sites connected to the Incident, including Tianma Tea House and the former Tobacco Monopoly Bureau building.
Following a bitter campaign dominated by "fake news" generated from China and punctuated by sexist personal attacks on President Tsai Ing-wen, the incumbent was re-elected in the Jan. 11 race, overwhelmingly defeating her main challenger, Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang (KMT). Tsai, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), received 8.17 million votes, or some 57% of the total, to Han's 5.52 million votes, or 39%. A third candidate, James Soong of the People First Party (PFP), garnered 608,590 votes, or 4.26%. Tsai's total was the highest ever recorded for any candidate in a presidential election in Taiwan.
Lifelong Taiwanese independence activist Su Beng died in Taipei Sept. 20, just a few weeks away from his 101st birthday. A resistance fighter against the Japanese during World War II, he subsequently became an underground militant who plotted against the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek. After being forced into exile in Tokyo, he wrote his history of Taiwan, an openly partisan work with an anti-imperialist perspective, and became a vocal advocate for democracy in his island home, and its formal independence from China. He returned to Taiwan with the democratic transition of the 1990s, where he continued to agitate for independence, eventually becoming a respected advisor to current President Tsai Ing-wen.