Showing posts with label hong_kong. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hong_kong. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Everything is Calm in the Meatspace

Untitled

From an exhibit at the Japanese Naval Guest House (日本海軍招待所) near Shi-da


I want to start in an optimistic place. 

Through everything American citizens have endured in this absolute slog of a presidential election, I’ve taken heart that people who are a part of my daily life in Taipei have expressed clear-headed, thoughtful views on events in the USA. At work, in my social life and running errands — say, chatting with the medical technician while getting electro-therapy on a problematic knee — people seem to agree. Some good things have happened for Taiwan under Trump, though mostly not through him, and in general he brings instability and mendacity to the table, and not much more. Big picture, some good things have happened in US-Taiwan relations in the last four years, but both countries are better off with someone who can competently lead. Taiwan certainly benefits more from a stable US. Trump’s highly inconsistent bloviating (one second calling Xi a “good friend” and the next banning a few apps) doesn’t make up for this, as an unstable US can’t really advocate for Taiwan effectively. 


Those are my words, but they’re echoed in different ways from people I know in the real world, most of whom are just average people. This gives me heart that plenty of people in Taiwan are thoughtful enough not to be taken in by the exact sort of fake news maelstrom that they so forcefully rejected when the Han Kuo-yu campaign attempted something similar, just because it’s coming from the US. 


I need that heart, because I have to say that online, the situation looks a lot more dire. 


Many people I’ve friended on social media, only a few of whom I know in real life, have gone from liberals and left-leaning people who support Taiwan and otherwise seem to have a high degree of digital literacy to spreaders of the exact sort of rhetoric they rejected less than a year ago. More than one has bought into the unsubstantiated belief that there was significant fraud in the US election (it’s unlikely; voter fraud is rare and there is no credible evidence for it in this case). 


Facebook groups once full of people I agreed with on Taiwan issues have become clearinghouses for right-wing pro-Trump posts. These come with not just fake news dumps, including the idea that Joe Biden is more in bed with China than Trump, when Trump’s China ties are provable and there isn’t any verifiable evidence for similar Biden ties. At least one of the Hunter Biden stories was entirely fabricated but achieved wide circulation in Asia. The most obvious example is Freddy Lim’s Chang Group 昶社團, though there are others. Apple Daily is the clearest example of the media amplifying and legitimizing highly questionable pro-Trump narratives in Taiwan, and they seem to have found a home in deep green or non-affiliated pro-Taiwan Taiwanese. These include the self-identified progressive and politically engaged online commentariat. 


Right now, the way pro-Trump drumbeats are repeated in these groups honestly reminds me of that part of Snow Crash where people had their brainstems hacked and seemingly randomly started repeating Ancient Sumerian or something. Of course, it turned out not to be random, and this isn’t either. 


Every time I come across this, I have to remind myself that in the meatspace, I interact every day with people who haven’t bought into this. It reminds me that social media tends to amplify more extreme voices, and that while some of them have come to these beliefs sincerely (if uncritically), there are a fair number of intentional bad actors, paid trolls and bots pushing this narrative. If there are bots attacking AIT, they surely exist elsewhere, too. 


Some of the arguments even sound familiar. “But the Democrats started the KKK!” shouts one Taiwanese commentator, just as unaware of the Great Realignment as the Americans who say the same thing. “But the Democrats cut ties with Taiwan!” says another, when that shift was started by Republicans, and when it happened, the cut ties were with the “Republic of China”, then still a military dictatorship that looked further from democratization than the People’s Republic of China. Honestly if I’d bet on which country would liberalize first in 1976, I would have lost a lot of money. “But who signed the Taiwan Travel Act and TAIPEI Act?” another asks, giving Trump credit for bipartisan legislation with bipartisan sponsorship that representatives from both parties voted for unanimously. A president can’t realistically veto that kind of thing. “But...China Joe the Pedophile!” many say, sounding exactly like Republicans in the US and basing it on just as little evidence, a party whose platforms they — the online so-called progressives — would never support in Taiwan. 


Of course, they ignore the provable Trump ties to China and dozens of rape allegations against Trump, one of which is set to go to court. It's not even clear to me why people think Biden was China's candidate. My money is on the CCP supporting Trump while pretending not to, because instability in the US is good for China, and they know it. So far, current headlines seem to be proving me right.


Let’s be clear: few people saying these things actually believe that Trump genuinely cares about Taiwan. Even people I disagree with profoundly on Trump don’t go so far as to say that his administration’s support of Taiwan comes from a place of real concern. One thing we can all agree on is that it’s all a game to them. 


Back to the meatspace, because talking about this too much stings on a deeply personal level. Since the election and presumptive Biden victory, in real life people have expressed relief, either that Trump lost or at least that it’s over. My medical tech offered congratulations as she stuck electrodes to my knee. Students expressed relief that they wouldn’t have to listen to a guy who sounds so “stupid” any longer. 


I had hoped it might stem the tide online. It’s over, so I'd hoped we could turn our collective efforts to pushing him to keep his word on the “stronger ties” with Taiwan that he talked about. Regardless of who our preferred candidate was, we can all agree this is the best way forward now, right?


Apparently not. I’ve had to cut loose several people who are now buying into the whole “election fraud” narrative, insisting on dragging out a dead presidency based on zero evidence. Even now, so many many Taiwanese I thought I respected or at least broadly agreed with have gotten on the Trump Express that it would be enough to make me question my own sense of logic, if not for the Taiwanese people I talk to in the real world, who also see it for the crazy train it is. 

 

On one hand, I understand that many politically engaged Taiwanese who want the best for their country remember how they’ve been shafted by Democrats. One official visit to Taiwan and a few anti-China remarks must surely seem like a breath of fresh air, and all those other scandals are far away. I get it. There is a deep desire and need for more international recognition, better treatment, more allies both official and unofficial. 


I want those things too, but also for the country of my citizenship to be competently run by someone who is not a rapist. The best way to achieve that, in my view, is to hold Biden accountable. It’s over anyway. 


But it still stings to spend years of my life advocating for the best possible leadership for Taiwan — pro-independence, as liberal as possible — and then see so many people in Taiwan who share those views want my country to be run by a rapist and a fascist. If they didn’t actually care about social issues I could kind of understand, but many of them are avowed progressives, and do care about these things in Taiwan. 


To me, if you believe in progressive values, you believe in them for everyone, not just yourself. I would not advocate that Taiwan be abandoned if it would be better for the US, because Taiwanese citizens deserves the same rights and freedoms I do, and we all deserve open, tolerant societies. If you’re fine with supporting reactionary politicians elsewhere, then how does that jive with those progressive values?


The lack of leadership from progressive Taiwanese thought leaders also bothers me. A few well-placed words from respected voices might have helped stem this tide, but they’ve been mostly silent as far as I can tell. I understand the government not taking an official position; Taiwan needs to work with the winner, period. I understand, say, Freddy Lim not taking a position (though if his views expressed in Metal Politics Taiwan are still true, he’s no Trump supporter). I understand that it is difficult to tell your own supporters to cut it out; it could undermine your base. 


What I don’t understand is how he and the moderators allowed that group — again, one among many — to become a constant stream of fake news. Could they have let people express opinions and frustrations freely, but drawn the line at blatant misinformation?


At the end, I may need to cut individuals loose. I don’t have the emotional capacity to deal calmly with anyone who thinks that Rapist Hitler is a good leader for the country where my family lives, or who is unconcerned about a leader that has callously allowed nearly a quarter of a million Americans to die when they didn't have to. I have no quarter for those who still believe had the election ‘stolen’ from him rather than being rejected because he is, you know, Rapist Hitler who is responsible for up to 240,000 unnecessary deaths in less than a year.

Despite this, we must remember that the cause is still just. Drew Pavlou said this about Hong Kong, and he’s absolutely right



The attitude of the left on Hong Kong makes me furious. They see desperate people holding Trump flags and immediately dismiss them all as racist reactionaries. Stop and reflect for a second why HKers felt desperate enough to turn toward a man who called Xi a “great friend.” 


HKers suffer under a brutal police state, and for the most part, the left have ignored them. Tankies attack HKers out of support for Chinese authoritarianism and liberals ignore HKers out of a mistaken belief that criticizing the Chinese state serves racist anti-China narratives.


I consider myself a leftist. My Christian faith underpins my concern for social justice and human dignity. But I take the world as it is rather than how I would like it to be. That means patiently building solidarity with HKers, even when we disagree on matters like Trump.


It means putting to one side considerations of left and right, putting to one side utopian ideals about ideological purity, and simply being there for HKers and raising my voice for them at this time of suffering.



And others have taken an anti-CCP, anti-Trump view as well, like artist Badiucao. The same holds true for the Taiwan cause. 


People I interact with online as well as in real life are generally on this side, as well. 


I’ve also seen a lot of US liberals and leftists (sigh) take aim at, say, the Hong Kong movement, insisting they must be right-wingers because they are turning to Trump or hoping the US will help solve their problems (something I don’t think is actually true; I don’t think many Hong Kongers think the US will solve this issue; they mostly just want international support.)


The thing is, the Western left was doing this long before Trump came along — screaming quite rightly about issues that affected them, but being quite fine with ignoring the fight for the same things in Hong Kong and Taiwan, because it all sounded so “anti-China”. It was easy to paint them as horrible “capitalists” because they oppose a regime that claims to be “communist”. And it was easy for Democrats to ignore them because while they may be slightly better on social issues in the US, they care just as little about similar social movements abroad. 


How profoundly have liberals ignored Taiwan that Taiwanese are supporting a man who compared their country to the insignificant tip of a pen?


So, I can see on some level why people sick of being treated this way would turn to the first person who said something critical about China, even though he didn’t appear to genuinely care so much as he wanted to start a strongman fight.


However, Taiwanese de jure independence is absolutely worth continuing to fight for, even if many of its strongest supporters have veered very weirdly into pro-Trump territory. Yes to Taiwan, resist the CCP, reject Trump. Biden’s not great but he’s gotten better on Taiwan, and now our job is to hold him accountable.

I doubt I can change their minds and I have limited capacity to try — I wouldn’t expect them to take a foreign resident of Taiwan particularly seriously. However, I will not abandon a cause I believe in just because some voices within it are pushing deeply problematic narratives about the US election. 
I might have to cull social media and unfollow or leave online groups, but I’ll still be there, in the meatspace, on the street if I have to, hobbling along on my bum knee for the cause of Taiwan.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Guest Post: The Left has been wrong on China since the Trump-Tsai phone call

IMG_5549


I'm still on hiatus -- my advisor's forthcoming feedback on my draft will determine how much longer that will last. But, in my absence, I thought it would be interesting to open up Lao Ren Cha to other voices, especially Taiwanese voices, with a possible series of guest posts.

This is my first experiment in guest posting, from Eric, a Taiwanese Canadian, written as a reaction to this article on the left's silence on genocide in China. It generally fits with the editorial line here at Lao Ren Cha ("editorial line" being fancy talk for "my opinions") while introducing a new style and perspective into the mix. Enjoy! 


- Jenna


With the recent change in mainstream media narrative on the Chinese regime, accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, one would not expect too much of a political cost for raising objections to its actions. Threats and attacks on neighbors, technology theft, fentanyl exports, loan shark diplomacy, concentration camps, genocide, live organ harvesting, systematic societal control — anyone who has been paying attention should have long recognized the threat to liberal values posed by this regime, yet the headlining leaders of the Liberal Left have been derelict for some time on this file. Sadly, this is not a surprise to those of us who have been watching this space for a while and have long lamented this problem.


For anyone who has generally progressive views and supports Taiwan and its continuing existence as a free and democratic country this contradiction is particularly painful, as many writers in Taiwan have noted. I have always been and continue to be a supporter of most of the values espoused by the moderate Liberal Left: social justice, environmental protection, universal human rights, yet I have little faith in international institutions and believe in healthy defense, training and advanced weaponry--peace through strength. Realizing that you have loved ones, friends, places and things that you value under constant threat of annihilation enforces pragmatism.

Personally, becoming deeply skeptical of the capital-L Liberal Left (as an ideological brand or label defined by its leading voices rather than a fuzzy set of held values) was a long time in the making, as I watched liberal papers such as the Guardian give voice to awful regime apologists, saw socially progressive celebrities and politicians look down in meek silence or even take pro-Beijing stances, or journalists unthinkingly regurgitating official narratives, making it easier for Beijing to calculate in its own favor as it continued to trample over every value they purported to hold dear. 

For me, the last straw was the response when President Donald Trump accepted a phone-call from Tsai Ing-Wen shortly after winning her 2016 election as President of Taiwan, and the cacaphony of supposedly progressive voices from that corner screaming bloody murder, warning of apocalypse and doom should anyone cross Beijing, heaven forbid the leader of the United States, for all of his faults, should take a symbolic phone call from the democratically elected, female President of one of the most free, liberal and progressive democracies in the world and risk angering a brutal regime that enslaves its own citizens and threatens others. 

That so many failed to even see this hypocrisy or consider that even a broken clock might be right twice a day made me lose much of my faith in peoples' ability to think critically, on both sides of the political spectrum. The biggest heartbreak came from the disappointment of seeing well-known people who I liked and admired unthinkingly retweeting such Chicken-Littlism and the false narratives that go with it or adding to the chorus.

Before anyone can accuse me of naiveté for thinking Trump did this out of the goodness of his heart, of course political and national interests are always considered, and I am OK with that. The minor symbolism of taking the call was enough.

So here we are, more than 4 years later and yet it seems for many, none the wiser. Just a few months ago, those same commentators were defending the WHO despite clear evidence that they had actively and knowingly caused the COVID19 epidemic to get worse, all in deference to China. While Trump was wrong to pull out of the WHO (how can the USA advocate for Taiwan’s inclusion if it’s not even there?), holding a benefit concert that made the WHO look like the victim in all this was laughable. 

Liberals often pride themselves on their critical thinking skills, and yet swallow CCP narratives that a phone call to a democratic leader friendly to the US is a diplomatic crisis. They pride themselves on logic and facts, yet threw a concert to support an organization that was proven to spread lies that harmed global health. They pride themselves on standing for access to human rights…unless the people fighting for those rights are far away. The right thinks masks are mind control devices, poverty will go away if you ignore it, and that it’s acceptable to put children in cages. How are they right about China while we writhe in indecisiveness? How are we losing the moral high ground on this?

The world did not end in war over a phone call. Universities still compromised their values for unsustainable profits, financiers continued to try to reap profits from the Chinese market, cadre money still got laundered in real-estate and commodities still got sold. On the other hand, the pandering obsequiousness with which the UN, governments, corporates and media treated the CCP regime, abetted by the silence of the Liberal Left, resulted in a pandemic that killed thousands, wrecked countless lives and made the world more dangerous and unstable.

And still, the biggest call to action on the left seems not to be the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang, standing with Hong Kong, or supporting Taiwan, but fear that standing up to the CCP is simply too scary to contemplate. A lot of this stems from thinking everything the right says must be wrong, so they must be wrong about China. 


Honestly, they are indeed wrong about almost everything, and Trump is not a reliable ally. Nobody who calls Xi Jinping a “good friend” and doesn’t seem fazed by concentration camps could ever be. But, when it comes to the CCP, the Liberal Left is the one the wrong. Trump is terrible, but when he criticizes China, he’s not wrong just because he’s Trump. 

At this time, I wonder if it would be too small-minded of me to contact those who unknowingly supported the stance of the CCP regime in admonishing the US President for taking Tsai's call four years ago, and see if their view had changed in hindsight. I fear, however, that I would be disappointed.  

Fortunately, critical voices are starting to come out on the Left, surprisingly from parts of Europe, of all places, with the German Green Party or Czech Pirate Party, for example. In the US Congress, important legislation regarding Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang passed unanimously — meaning Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives alike, supported it. There is still time to push Joe Biden away from Obama-era China doves and towards policy advisors who are more realistic about the CCP, and to embrace bipartisan efforts in congress.

We still don't know if even this pandemic is enough to overcome inertia and make people realize that they are affected by what happens in Asia (the last Federal election in Canada was a hold-your-nose-and-vote affair), but hopefully change will come. Regardless, the left-right dichotomy, with its simplifications and polarizing power, has shown that it is no longer useful for the messy, chaotic world we live in.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Photos from the Black Lives Matter Solidarity and Hong Kong Outlander rallies


Untitled


I just wanted to share some photos from two important rallies that took place in Taipei yesterday - the Black Lives Matter Solidarity Rally outside the National Taiwan Museum, and the rally organized by Hong Kong Outlander (a Taiwan-based group of Hong Kong civic activists) at Freedom Square later that evening. Both were well-attended - not as big as some protests I've seen, but a great turnout for these sorts of solidarity gatherings.



Untitled
There was some local presence at the BLM rally. I hope in the future, there will be more

In between the two, there was at least one rally to express support for Taiwan (well, the ROC)'s continued "sovereignty" over the Senkaku Islands (ugh). I think it might have melded with a pro-Han Kuo-yu rally, or a "Recall President Tsai" rally? It's not clear and I don't care enough to sort it out, but anyway all 9 or so attendees did a great job of enthusiastically calling for more attention to be paid to their cause, before the nursing home curfew kicked in.

If you actually care about these guys, Taiwan Report has a bit more information. 


Untitled

Black Lives Matter in the US have expressed that they've been heartened to see global support from gatherings like these, and racism certainly is an issue that needs to be tackled in Taiwan, not only against non-white foreign residents (most notably Southeast Asian members of the community as they form the largest demographic, but other non-Taiwanese BIPOC as well), but also against Taiwanese Indigenous who face discrimination in their own country. Both Indigenous activists and foreign resident activists spoke at the event. 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence were observed - the same amount of time that Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd's neck.


Untitled 

At the end of the Black Lives Matter rally, which drew a large crowd of foreign residents, the organizers expressed support for the Hong Kong rally later that evening (there was some disagreement over this, but it was quickly defused).






The Hong Kong rally was also inspirational. Though part of it felt more like a pop-up market than a rally, I kind of like that about these sorts of events and purchased a Tsai Ing-wen plushy and rainbow Taiwan pin. Notable speakers included my new favorite person, a professor who went on a profane tirade (he said something along the lines of "fuck the Communist Party of China's mother!" in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Taiwanese all in a row). I could find out his name, but I'd prefer his brilliance live on, ensconced in mythology.

I do notice a harder edge to the Hong Kong rallies these days - "free Hong Kong, revolution of our times!" is still a popular chant, but "Hong Kong is Hong Kongers' Hong Kong" (it's just as unwieldy in Chinese) and "Fuck China!" are starting to catch on. Black and white bauhinia and "Free Hong Kong" flags are starting to share space with "Hong Kong Independence" flags. I've thought all along that there's no real middle ground here where Hong Kong can maintain its unique character and be a part of China, and independence is the only reasonable (yet sadly, seemingly impossible) solution, so I personally am happy to see this.

Untitled

Unfortunately, there were not very many Taiwanese at the Black Lives Matter rally, and few foreign residents (other than Hong Kongers themselves) at the Hong Kong rally. The Black Lives Matter rally didn't get a lot of local press in Mandarin, although the English-language media all covered it in advance. A few public figures on the Taiwanese left - including Sunflower leaders Lin Fei-fan and Chen Wei-ting - were present at the Hong Kong rally, but not the BLM rally (though both are supportive of the cause).

Untitled

All I can really say is, both of these issues are important, and they are interrelated. That said. I see some BLM criticism of Hong Kong protests online, with some disappointment by Hong Kongers that the Western left doesn't have a lot of support to offer them. This is coupled with criticism of some Hong Kongers' leaning into the support they've received from the American right, which one would be correct to describe as 'hypocritical' on the part of the right. 

 For Hong Kongers, as with Taiwan, I won't judge anyone for taking the support they are offered - even from a deeply unsavory and hypocritical source - when there are few other helping hands extended. Though when I see, say, Tsai Ing-wen publish a cartoon that makes her look buddy-buddy with Trump or Joshua Wong retweeting Marco Rubio, it does make me want to barf more than a little.

In any case, both deserved their own rallies, and it's important that both happened.



Untitled
The crowd did get larger as the night wore on


However, I would have liked to have seen more cross-pollination - it seemed to be all the same people (myself included) who go to these sorts of things going to both, not a larger trend.


Untitled
Lin Fei-fan surrounded by reporters (I'm not a reporter so I just snapped an amusing photo)


In the future, with rising energy for BLM solidarity in Taiwan and ongoing support for Hong Kong, as well as a growing awareness of the need to fight discrimination in a Taiwanese context, whether it's against other Taiwanese or foreigners of color, I hope there is energy for a larger gathering that brings these groups together to fight for what are, at the end, common goals.


Untitled
I would not take a photo of myself at a BLM rally, but I figure Bear Guy - a common sight at Taiwanese protests - was fair game at the Hong Kong rally.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

How to help Hong Kong refugees without calling them "refugees"

Untitled


Since the imposition of the National Security Law on Hong Kong and renewed protests in opposition to it, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding whether Taiwan is obligated to help Hong Kong (honestly - no), whether helping Hong Kong is the right thing to do (yes), and what exactly Taiwan can do to help.

Despite some Taiwanese saying that they need to prioritize the well-being of their own country rather than helping refugees - a false comparison, as any nation can do both - I do believe most want to help Hong Kongers fleeing their increasingly authoritarian city. How to do that, however, is not clear.

Measures are expected to be approved on Thursday (article in Cantonese, but there's a decent English rundown here) to help political asylum seekers. According to Radio Free Asia, this would include vetting both by Hong Kong and Taiwanese human rights lawyers at different stages of the process, help with housing, including centralized housing options, and financial and employment aid upon arrival. These measures are based on Article 18 of the Act Governing Relations Between Hong Kong and Macau, and would amend Article 25 of that same act, which concerns transportation of goods and people between Taiwan and Hong Kong/Macau.

There are many questions that still need to be addressed, however. Until very recently, the Taiwanese government was saying that Hong Kongers coming to Taiwan should not be considered "refugees" because the term was too 'emotionally sensitive' - I can't find a link right now but will source one soon.  Of course, the real reason is that considering Hong Kong's status vis-a-vis ROC and PRC laws, specifically designating Hong Kongers fleeing to Taiwan as "refugees" is very murky legal territory. As early as 10 days ago, the Tsai government was saying no new laws were needed, even though refugees and advocates say that current mechanisms are clearly insufficient

If the laws won't change, whatever happens on Thursday is not likely to open more pathways for Hong Kongers than the ones which already exist: work or study, which visas that not everyone can get; investment, which is really only for the wealthy; or throwing oneself into an ill-defined humanitarian legal system that is just being set up. 


Honestly, there is more we could do. Simply making it easier for Hong Kongers to get visas to come to Taiwan would be a start, as would prioritizing the opening of a 'travel bubble' of places that have handled coronavirus well, which would include Hong Kong. Having a wide array of visas to choose from would ensure more Hong Kongers might find a visa that applies to them.

Here are some ideas for visa classes that could be opened to Hong Kongers, if they don't exist already. Some have already suggested this, but the talent they seem keen on attracting is still far too narrow. Many of these are already available to people from some countries, though I'm not clear what the entry requirements are or if they are available to Hong Kongers. Changing the requirements or applicability of these visas wouldn't require new laws - existing ones could simply be amended.

Employment-seeking visas: give Hong Kongers who apply and pass a security check a visa with a generous time limit, during which they may seek employment, with few (if any) restrictions on what that employment is. Make it possible to convert this visa into a resident visa with a work permit in Taiwan. These could be broadly open to just about anyone. In addition, barriers to what sort of jobs and salary offers qualify one for employment should be relaxed - for everyone, not just Hong Kongers.


Entrepreneur visas: for Hong Kongers who have a bit more cash and could conceivably open their own small business. Make the requirements for this low - even a street stall or coffee kiosk would be sufficient.

Study and academic visas: offer a wider range of student visas, including a visa simply for signing up for classes at a language center. 


Artist visas: this class currently exists, but is extremely hard to get (I don't know anyone who has successfully obtained one). Make it easier to get, so that all you need to do is prove you've had some commercial success with your art - whether that's fine arts, getting DJ gigs, getting paid to write or design or sell your handmade goods...whatever.

Reduce requirements for work visas: end the salary and some of the educational requirements for obtaining a work visa for those who can get hired, so that the current requirements aren't overly onerous. As it is, most front-line protesters - that is, people most in need of a way out as they will absolutely be targeted - are young and probably don't meet the current requirements.

Certainly, financial, housing and legal assistance are also important.  By centering these, Taiwan is clearly expecting an influx of people arriving and sticking around without any legal status, and that's an important thing to consider. However, alongside these, more legal means to come to Taiwan need to be put in place. 


Just a few years ago, the media was focused on discussing "brain drain", especially from Taiwan to China.  This is just one of seemingly hundreds of articles dissecting the topic. If that really was an issue, and Taiwan has a talent and labor shortage, it would be beneficial to let Hong Kongers who want to start a new life in a free country do so. 

Obviously, anyone applying for these would still have to undergo some sort of security check. We can assume that the CCP would attempt to funnel in bad actors through a more open visa system in Hong Kong, especially in these times. However, once they do, an influx of talented Hong Kongers who share Taiwanese values such as respect for human rights and democracy can only be good for the country. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

The Glue on a Post-It

Untitled



Yesterday evening, a few hundred people gathered at Freedom Square in a vigil to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. In previous years, these events had been more formally organized, with red plastic stools, a stage and a sound system (which was often terrible, but nobody minded). Some were sparsely attended, such as in 2018. Others were packed - commemorations in 2014 following the Sunflower Movement and 2019 for the 30th anniversary were both packed, the latter likely also due to the recent outbreak of the Hong Kong protests.

This year's meeting felt more deconstructed, like a spontaneous sit-in than a formally-planned event. There was no stage, no sound system to speak of - there was a speaker of some sort but it didn't really work. 2019 saw a host of high-profile hosts and speakers, including the then-vice president; this year I had no idea who was speaking. It could have been anyone. Instead, people sat on the ground and lit candles, in some cases simple tea lights. Hastily strung-up tape kept the central crowd from getting too big - probably as a coronavirus safety measure - but onlookers were welcome.

The feel of the gathering was a good reminder that these events aren't "official"; the government here supports them (even in the age of coronavirus, the permit to gather was clearly not rejected), but they're put together by regular people. Anybody can do it. Regular people keep the memory of Tiananmen alive and support Hong Kong from Taiwan. Regular people light the tea lights and play music from their laptops that almost nobody can hear, but everyone sings along with anyway. Governments don't light candles - people do. 


Untitled

 
To be honest, in 2019 the gathering felt full of anger and enthusiasm. Vigor, but also fear. It was like the rebel station on Yavin-4 just before the big mission to deal the Empire a hopefully fatal blow.

This year felt more grim and determined - like the rebel station on Hoth. Like all fear had been burnt away over the course of the past year, and all that was left was an embattled will to fight on. I don't need to tell you why.


Untitled

There is a right and a wrong in this war. Imagine you are right, and knowing not only that you are right, but that most of the world realizes it too, yet still feeling like you're losing. Imagine feeling like all reasonable people - including many in the establishment - understand the justness of your cause, but that doesn't stop the establishment from telling you that this is just how things are. Hong Kong is a part of China, Taiwan isn't, but cannot be recognized as such. Sorry. Shrug.


Untitled

This year was not just about Tiananmen. Many attendees were clearly Hong Kongers residing in Taiwan, and many of the chants were in Cantonese. Hong Kong protest flags and signs outnumbered remembrances of Tiananmen. One speaker said in Cantonese, "don't think that the Tiananmen Square Massacre has nothing to do with the Hong Kong protests", which I can assure you nobody was thinking. (I don't speak Cantonese but a friend I attended with does.) 

Untitled

Artwork commemorating yesterday's anniversary explicitly made this connection, and it's doubtful that any Hong Kong protester is unaware of how Tiananmen ended. They fight anyway.

Earlier in the day I dropped by Causeway Bay Books, the recently-opened Taipei bookstore run by Lam Wing-kee, the bookseller whose store of the same name in Hong Kong was closed due to "legal troubles", and who was driven into de facto political exile in Taiwan. Causeway Bay Books is small, and has no street-level entrance - it's on the 10th floor of an unremarkable building near MRT Zhongshan. It's not a swish department-store sized establishment like Eslite, or even as fancy as some of the higher-end bookshops near National Taiwan University (though I hope someday it will be).

Causeway Bay Books doesn't exist in Taiwan only because this is a country that is willing to look China in the face and tell it to take a hike. Nor because this is a country where everyday people were willing to look the KMT dictatorship in the face and tell it to stand down - and won. Causeway Bay Books is also here because regular people helped make it happen through local assistance.


Untitled

Of course, Taiwanese nationhood is also related, philosophically and ethically, to both the Hong Kong protests and Tiananmen Square. All of these issues cross-pollinate: that's why there were Tibetan flags at the Tiananmen Square memorial in Taipei last night, and pro-Hong Kong, Taiwan independence and Tibetan flags at Pride in late 2019. (I hope to see more East Turkestan flags in coming years; that issue is just as worthy). All of these issues center freedom, human rights and equality, and stand against the CCP's desire to control as many people it can, deny them basic rights and freedoms, and massacre them with impunity.

If you don't see that there is a clear right and wrong in this fight, you are deluded. There's a reason why the international media so often writes about China's authoritarianism in the passive voice: pointing fingers at an easily-angered member of the establishment feels scary, and the CCP's actions are so objectively wrong that simply to list them becomes a litany of (deserved) blame.

The truth is that Uighurs are imprisoned because China imprisons them. Hong Kongers and Tibetans are oppressed because China oppresses them. Tensions with Taiwan are raised because China raises them. Dissidents are murdered because China murders them. Bookstores are closed because China closes them. Protesters are run over with tanks because China runs over them.


These things aren't just done. A government actively does them, and they are not morally neutral. Murder in the passive voice is still murder.


Untitled

At Causeway Bay Books, there is a Post-It note written by President Tsai which says 自由的台灣撐住香港的自由: free Taiwan supports freedom in Hong Kong. Next to it, there are two more Post-Its, written by children - one saying "don't forget Tiananmen" with a child's drawing of a tank and the numbers "64" (the "4" is backwards). The other has a stick figure and says "Go Hong Kong"! 


Untitled


President Tsai's Post-It is held to the shelf by the thinnest strip of glue. A sharp gust of wind or a pair of fingers could dislodge it. Yet nobody would dare: it would probably make the news if they tried. It stays affixed to that shelf because people want it there. The seed of Causeway Bay Books has been planted and grows despite China's efforts to tear it out by the roots because people want it there.

The Tiananmen Square memorial in Hong Kong was banned this year, but lived on because people wanted it there.

The one in Taiwan lives on, in different forms, because people want it there. 


The past year or so has shown us how easy it is for these things to be peeled away. Post-Its aren't very securely attached. Bookstores open and close, and open again. A microscopic virus brings most of the world to its knees. An act of violence - similar to so many that came before - exposes the way in which even robust-seeming democracies were built on slavery and oppression, and are weaker for it. Protesters in Hong Kong take to the streets for months, and have a National Security Law shoved down their throats regardless. Western tankies still say that "Hong Kong was able to do what it wanted" and have the gall to praise Xi Jinping. Tom Cotton - a so-called supporter of Hong Kong and Taiwan - publishes an editorial calling for the US government to "send in the troops" against the protesters angry at the death of George Floyd, systemic racism and inequality in general...on June 3rd.

For Taiwan and Hong Kong, even one's allies are not really friends.

For those of us who still stand for what's right, it all feels about as sturdy as the shell of a weather-beaten conch. Or the glue on a Post-It.

But there's strength in it too. Because events like the Tiananmen Square memorial are organized by everyday people, they live on. Governments may try to tear away collective memory, or offend it by calling for history to repeat itself, but the memory clings. We teach our children about it, no matter what country we come from. 



Untitled

People I know have said they felt the Sunflowers ultimately were "unsuccessful" or didn't have the impact that had been hoped for. However, towards the end of the vigil, after singing Glory to Hong Kong, people sang along with a tremulous laptop speaker to slowly pick their way through Island Sunrise, the Sunflower Movement anthem by Fire EX. These are both songs of hope. 


The candles are still lit because we light them. Our countries may be in ruins, but the mountains and rivers remain. 

Untitled

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The rigged game, and how to feint

Untitled
This meme just seemed appropriate. 


I have a lot to do today, but wanted to quickly explore the game. 


Here's how it works. People who should be on the same team appear to be split. There are those who think Trump's rhetoric on China and the WHO is right, and we must stand up to them. This group tends to believe that, as a result, Trump's actual actions constitute good strategy.

Then there's the camp that think nothing Trump says can ever be correct, and therefore we shouldn't stand against China, as this could create "a new cold war". They also tend to view the WHO as mostly good, rather than mostly political.

Both sides are partially wrong. Rhetorically, the Trump administration is mostly correct. Leaving aside "they gutted American industry" - no, we did that to ourselves - and talk of excluding whole groups of Chinese citizens, it's not wrong to point out that China is planning to treat Hong Kong as just another Chinese province, and that they've basically taken control of the WHO.

The CCP is on the brink of committing an unthinkable atrocity and have already committed many others. The WHO is a political organization that prioritizes factional battles over actually helping people. Hong Kongers do need assurance of assistance, both locally and as potential refugees. These issues do need to be dealt with and can't be buried under talk of "engagement" with a government that simply cannot be trusted to keep its promises.


But strategically, Trump is wrong. Ending Hong Kong's special status makes sense in terms of ensuring that China doesn't benefit from Hong Kong while oppressing it. But China's ultimate goal is to make Hong Kong unimportant, an extension of Shenzhen rather than a distinct cultural and economic entity. The CCP so clearly wants to promote cities like Shanghai as finance hubs and gateways to China, and I doubt hey've realized that this won't be appealing to much of the world. Hong Kong's relative wealth and visibility make it difficult to control when its residents rebel against CCP brutality. Shanghai, on the other hand, is basically obedient.

On this front, I don't know what to say. The game is rigged. There is no right move. End Hong Kong's special status, and you hand China something that helps them destroy Hong Kong. Keep it in place, and you let China off the hook and help them economically, after all of the horrors they have perpetuated. Someone clearly foresaw this choice when thinking through their government's possible actions - and it wasn't anyone in the Trump administration. China had this in the bag before we even knew we were in a game.

This is basic strategy and it was not foregone that the CCP would figure it out first. In any case, it makes me absolutely furious that the US really should have known that this was the CCP's endgame. After all, Taiwan and Hong Kong have been ringing the warning bells since at least since 2014. The day the first Hong Kong bookseller was attacked was the day the US should have started figuring out what the end game might look like.

Instead, they ignored all of the Asian voices who honestly tried to raise the alarm - when I say that Taiwan has been trying to warn the world about the CCP Virus, I don't just mean COVID19. It's one of the fatal flaws of the West that they just don't seem to hear non-Western voices warning about a rising Nazi-like threat in their own backyard and boom, now we've got a Sudetenland situation.

The proposed exclusion of some Chinese students from the US is also a no-win strategy. CCP incursion into global (including Western) academia is a real thing and genuine security threat, and it's well-known that the CCP has a say in which students can go abroad, asking some to collect information in return for tuition paid. Banning Chinese students who studied at Chinese military universities as undergraduates (not all Chinese students, or even most, as some have claimed) seems to make sense.

But let's remember that the students themselves are not tied to any known wrongdoing, and security protocols already exist. If this is a threat it is probably not a highly pressing one - meaning it's showy but of negligible consequence - and that Trump wanted to institute a much broader ban in 2018, long before the Hong Kong protests began. Banning Chinese students as a broad category is a long-term goal of the Trump administration and many Republicans. It's not really about Hong Kong.

There are other things that can be done. Institute stricter security. Ban Confucius Institutes. End CCP funding for academic titles and other programs. You can enforce rules - which I am sure already exist - barring student groups from harassing other students and disbanding any groups that engage in such behavior. Why broadly target Chinese students?

In any case, Trump's rhetoric on Hong Kong doesn't exonerate him from the inherent racism of his administration, and doing everything he can to target Chinese students as a group, rather than looking for institutional ways to counter CCP threats, shows this.

How do we know they are racist, despite talk of helping Hong Kong refugees?  I mean - [gestures vaguely at Minneapolis]. But also, a big chunk of Trump's 2016 campaign was predicated on stoking racism-based fears of refugees, especially from majority Muslim and Latin American countries. Then, once in office, he defunded many refugee resettlement programs and slashed the number of refugees allowed in.  Don't delude yourself that Republicans care about "refugees" as a whole.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't help Hong Kong refugees. We absolutely should. But we should help refugees, from anywhere, period. Trump never wanted to do that, and he's not going to. 


Finally, withdrawing from the WHO is not the way to fix problems inherent to the WHO. I spent a short amount of time supporting the US defunding that absolute joke of an organization, but honestly, the US is just conceding ground here. The WHO is garbage and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus should be removed from office, if not in jail. But it is still an organization that the rest of the world broadly believes in, for some reason, and China will simply be able to control it better. Not necessarily through funding, but through building up a block of allies:




(Go read the whole thread)

This rebranding of "authoritarian nations" as "the Global South" (a possibly once helpful way of thinking about the world which I think has lost its luster) is a part of what keeps the dumber among liberals still believing in them. 


A big chunk of China's argument for why it should be considered next global leader is that unlike the evil, imperialist, Western United States, China represents a new and better orientation away from the primacy of Western (and therefore historically imperialist) interests in the world. 

There are a lot of people who believe (correctly) that white, Western countries became rich in great part from plundering the wealth of the rest of the world, and that this is one of the great tragedies of history. However, there's a tendency to twist that argument around and insist that as imperialism in all its forms is most visibly white, that it can therefore only be white, and therefore anything "non-Western" must be preferable.

Frankly, I see the appeal. Nothing sounds better than re-orienting towards leadership by people of color who can build a more equitable post-colonial world.


Except, of course, China's not doing that. 


T
heir goal is not to break down divisions so that the "Global South" may enjoy the same level of development and well-being as the "Global North", which would include things like human rights. It's to cement its position as the permanent leader of these nations, supporting and replicating its own system of anti-humanitarian, authoritarian repression. It wants supplicants. Serfs. It wants its own colonial empire, cloaked in the language of leftie progressivism. 

The WHO is just a tool in that game. And by withdrawing, we're handing it to them.

Usually I say that when it comes to the CCP, the only way to win the game is not to play, but this is absolutely not what I mean. Opposition is not the same as playing. There are games bigger than those devised by the CCP that are worth playing, and this was one of them.

There are better ways, and if the rest of the world would only listen to Taiwan, perhaps they'd see that.

Rather than flouncing off in a huff and leaving the WHO to China, Taiwan has been trying to raise awareness of its exclusion. That not only helps Taiwan's global visibility, it highlights the ways that the CCP has been slowly taking over international organizations. Engaging, petitioning, speaking out, countering - yes, it feels like playing a game we can't win, but honestly, we got pretty far with it. There was an impact, however unsatisfying in the end.

In fact, one of the reasons I admire President Tsai is that she can look at China's ridiculous carnival games - hoops on an angle, balls that are too big for their buckets, weighted milk bottles, carefully-placed tables of a certain height - and see not just the game, but the rigging. If you can see the rigging, you can begin to devise a strategy to get around it. Tsai does this better than any other leader in the world. 

Even when it comes to issues such as framing the discussion on independence or potentially (maybe) gaining diplomatic recognition, she treads like a trained explosives detector across a minefield, not a tank. Trump? He's a tank with a particularly stupid driver.

She's doing that rather marvelously, and Trump is flailing like the screaming racist baby he is. He may be tough on the CCP, and I do actually think he is right about them, but he doesn't know what to do about it. His strategies will fail, because they were ham-fisted to begin with and certainly didn't take into account what's really going on with these games.

This is why Tsai, not Trump - and not "we have a strategic interest to engage" Merkel (translation: $$$), nor "did well with COVID19 but not so much the CCP Virus" Ardern - is the true leader of the free world. 


There is more that Taiwan can do, which I'd like to explore in a later post. There are reasons why pivoting away from the US and towards an "Asian Century" is not a bad idea, as long as that century does not include the CCP - again, for a later post.

What I'm trying to say here is: when deciding exactly how not to play the CCP's games, there is more strategy involved than people realize. It's not always a simple matter of walking away, because other players and bigger concerns need to be dealt with.

Taiwan has figured this out. One of the best strategies we can adopt is simply to listen to Taiwan and other Asian voices when they warn of encroaching CCP authoritarianism. For liberals, that means curbing the tendency to equate "we want to engage with the world and that includes China" with being a good liberal and global citizen. Good liberals don't pretend modern-day Nazis are acceptable negotiation partners and listen to marginalized voices around the world, not just dominant ones. For conservatives, it means ending racist platforms in all ways and actually paying attention to the voices of people of color, rather than acting like white saviors.

For both sides, just listen. The rest of Asia - and especially Taiwan - is telling you what to do and where the traps are.

When will the US and the rest of the world open its ears?

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Should Taiwan formalize a political asylum process? (Yes.)

IMG_9854
I've used this as a cover photo before, and probably will again.
I hope someday it might actually be true. 

With the resurgence of protests in Hong Kong after China's announcement of a Beijing-imposed national security law which will certainly curtail the relative (but dwindling) freedoms that Hong Kongers currently have, there has been a lot of discussion in Taiwan on the degree of assistance the country can provide to Hong Kong. In particular, the discussion has focused on whether and how Taiwan might go about allowing political refugees to settle in Taiwan.

President Tsai's remarks on the matter, while hitting all the right notes in terms of promising that Taiwan will do what it can, have not offered much in the way of specific plans for this assistance. At the moment, Taiwan has no laws regarding refugees, nor a process for applying for political asylum. Regarding Hong Kong specifically, Article 18 of the Act Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau says that Taiwan may "help" residents of these two cities if their political freedom is in danger, but doesn't specify what that "help" would be (nor what would constitute a threat). The act provides special status to Hong Kong and Macau, allowing for greater investment and a popular immigration scheme. I know someone whose family immigrated this way when he was a child, and he holds both ROC nationality and a Hong Kong ID card.

While the TPP (Taiwan People's Party) has proposed amending Article 18 to specifically allow for political asylum (see link above), Tsai is moving cautiously. Previously, the Tsai administration had said that current laws were sufficient to determine whether to allow dissidents to settle in Taiwan on a case-by-case basis, though whether this still holds true is highly questionable. Furthermore, Tsai has announced that Hong Kong's (and presumably Macau's) special status may be revoked, which wouldn't even allow for the vague promise of "help" in the relevant act - Hong Kongers and Macanese would be treated like any other citizens of China.

So, as it stands now, there are surely plenty of Hong Kongers looking at Taiwan as a place they might run to if things get really bad, which they probably will, and Taiwan has no mechanism by which to aid them, despite promising some unclear form of "assistance".

Of course, it's more legally complicated than that, but I really don't want to get into the legal complexities of separating the notion of "Hong Kong" from the notion of "China" (or the PRC) under ROC law. I'm not qualified and honestly, I'm sure if Taiwan really wanted to create a mechanism for Hong Kong refugees, it could do so.

Public opinion in Taiwan remains somewhat divided. I have no data to back this up, but I would guess that most Taiwanese support Hong Kong's struggle in an abstract way. Surely they are aware that China's actions in Hong Kong are a look into the future that the authoritarian hell-state has planned for Taiwan. Surely, when it comes to individuals who need to get out, most Taiwanese would believe that their country should be a safe harbor for them. Surely, many Taiwanese recognize that while Hong Kong may not want 'independence' as much as Taiwan does - it was never part of the protesters' famous 'five demands' - they share a common enemy and their struggles are therefore linked in some way.


However, there are questions regarding the safety of allowing large numbers of refugees in - surely, Beijing would attempt to plant as many agents in that influx as possible. Furthermore, allowing a stream of Hong Kongers, who can naturalize more easily than foreigners like me, to potentially gain the right to vote has some people questioning the wisdom of large-scale resettlement. In theory, enough of them may maintain a 'Chinese' identity (rather than a Taiwanese one) that they'd support unification with China, were it to democratize. For many Taiwanese, however, their identity exists independently of China, meaning they would not support unification under any circumstances and wouldn't appreciate a population of newcomers who might feel differently.

Some Taiwanese might even feel that, until fairly recently, Hong Kongers looked down on Taiwan - while I can't personally comment on this, I can imagine it happening, and do believe it's happened - as sort of 'country cousins' who were relatively less prosperous. Now that Taiwan as emerged as a freer and more equal society, Taiwanese who have experienced this attitude from Hong Kong might be thinking - "oh, you mocked us for decades and now you want our help?"

And, of course, some feel that Taiwan is always expected to give to others, but is castigated when it looks out for its own self-interest and makes decisions that are best for itself as a nation, rather than feeling obligated to always absorb the suffering of others.

Should Taiwan feel obligated to assist Hong Kong, potentially allowing refugees to settle here? No.

Is it the right thing to do anyway? Yes.

Hong Kong is, unfortunately, legally a part of China. Taiwan is not. Taiwanese, by and large, don't identify as Chinese. Hong Kong is beginning to catch up in this regard, but you'll still meet plenty of Hong Kongers who identify as Chinese, especially among the older generations (not so much the younger ones). In that way, Taiwan doesn't 'owe' Hong Kong anything, any more than any other nation - they are two different countries with two different identities, after all. To her credit, Tsai did not use Hong Kong protesters as props during her re-election campaign - the connections between her vision for Taiwan and the struggle for freedom in Hong Kong were made entirely by supporters (and rightly so - but that does not change the fact that this was not Tsai's strategy).

However, Taiwan under Tsai has made it clear that it wants to be a beacon of freedom and democracy in Asia. Tsai has said clearly that Taiwan is independent, and outlined what kind of country it ought to be - one where liberal values can merge with local culture and be the stronger for it. This isn't a question of what Taiwan 'owes' Hong Kong, which is nothing. It's a question of what kind of country Taiwan wants to be.

I do think that liberal democracies should strive to be safe harbors for those persecuted under authoritarian regimes. That means that, while Taiwan isn't specifically obligated to Hong Kong, the liberal democratic world as a whole is. As a part of that world, I hope that Taiwan will see that it would simply be the ethical thing to do. That said, this means that other nations - the UK especially, as they helped create this mess, but not only them - should also step up and support Hong Kong in the same way. After all, while Taiwan and Hong Kong bear the brunt of China's aggressive expansionism, the CCP is a common enemy to us all.

The fear of Chinese 'plants' among fleeing Hong Kongers is real, and reasonable. The CCP will almost certainly try this. However, I have never met a proponent of helping refugees, in any country, who believes that every last one should be allowed in with no vetting process. Vetting processes are rarely discussed, but they do exist in the United States - well, they did back when the United States cared about refugees - as elsewhere. Of course, Taiwan's vetting process needs to be ironclad. Nobody can reasonably argue otherwise. Of course, any political asylum process would have to take into account what's best for Taiwan, first and foremost. Nobody can reasonably argue against that, either.

I'm in favor of rules and procedures surrounding the process, to make it safe and tenable. But to support that, one must support their being a process at all, which there currently isn't.

I'm less worried about a 'loss' of Taiwanese identity. While cultural and identity barriers are often unclear, there is a 'thing' we might label as 'Taiwanese identity'. I couldn't tell you where it begins and ends, but I can say that I'm not included in it, which means the border must exist. But, one thing I have come to love about this country is that identifying as Taiwanese has the potential to be more fluid, as it is a more multicultural society than people realize (just because most of the cultural groups within it look generally 'Asian' does not mean they are the same). It's the sort of country where, perhaps, someday, the words on the welcoming sign at the National Museum of Taiwan History might actually be true:



All those who identify with and are concerned about Taiwan, who love and accept Taiwan, and who wish to live together in this land can declare with a loud voice "I am a Taiwanese". 

This posits a civic rather than ethnic identity (in fact, the entire passage argues against an ethnic identity for Taiwan, both practically and ethically), where perhaps shared cultural norms and perceptions play a part, but shared values do too, and who your parents were doesn't have to matter as much.

I'd like to think that someday, with luck, that this could include me, though I wouldn't be so arrogant as to claim it does now. It has come to include the descendants of the KMT diaspora who wish to claim it, many of whom - especially the younger ones - have come to identify as Taiwanese and support Taiwanese nationhood. So why not Hong Kong refugees and their descendants, too?


That is to say, Hong Kong refugees might not arrive thinking of themselves as Taiwanese, but that does not mean they won't come to identify that way someday. The person I know who emigrated here as a child considers himself Taiwanese, after all.

As for any Hong Kongers' previous superiority complexes, my personal feeling (though I have absolutely no right to insist on this) is that it shouldn't cloud the question. I understand the hard feelings, but Taiwan has proven itself, period. It's shown that it is simply a great nation and open society, and can do great things, it is the inferior of no one, and there is no basis to treat it as such. It's the envy of Asia with its democratic values and the envy of the world in its coronavirus response. The point is clear and it doesn't need to be made through excluding refugees.


That said, the TPP is also wrong: Article 18 isn't the issue. If Taiwan wants to be a model of liberal democracy, and liberal democracies around the world have a moral imperative to accept refugees - which I believe they do - then there should be an asylum process that is theoretically accessible to people from anywhere, not just Hong Kong and Macau.

There is no obligation. Nobody 'owes' anyone anything. Taiwan doesn't 'have to' do this, just as nobody 'has to' help others in need. I understand the source of disquiet or unease surrounding the issue, and I am sympathetic to the concerns of people who don't necessarily support this.

But, considering the kind of country Taiwan clearly wants to be, and the country I truly believe it can be (and in many ways already is), I think it would simply be the right thing to do.

Just do it properly, with proper vetting and other procedures. Taiwan is a capable, successful country. It can surely pull this off.