As Beijing worries over the Hong Kong protests emboldening democrats and separatists in the hotspots of China’s periphery, Isaac Stone Fish interviews a leading Uighur independence activist about how she views the past week’s events:
According to Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled leader of the movement for Uighur rights, the ideals of the Hong Kong movement are already influencing the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang. “Because of the brutality and wrongfulness of the Chinese government, the Uighur people have concluded that their only option is independence,” she said in a Sept. 30 interview with Foreign Policy. The protests in Hong Kong “are very inspiring” to Xinjiang, she said. Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim group who make up roughly 43 percent of the population in Xinjiang, think that “if Hong Kong wins, it will benefit Uighurs as well, and then the Uighurs can strengthen their own movement.” …
“I saw what happened in Hong Kong and Taiwan,” she said, referring to protests in Taipei this spring, and “I wished” that Xinjiang could also have Western journalists reporting there. “Our people can’t do what the Hong Kong people are doing because they’re getting killed by the Chinese government,” and there are no outsiders to observe it.
Alexa Olesen looks to Macau, the former Portuguese colony and current gambling mecca just up the coast from Hong Kong with a somewhat similar governing arrangement. For now, at least, a battle for democracy doesn’t seem to be in the cards there:
[O]ver the past year or so, Macau has seen the emergence of an aggressive labor movement fond of protests and strikes and the stirrings of a political opposition with democratic ambitions. It remains to be seen how Hong Kong’s experience — massive protests over many days that police have tried to beat back with pepper spray and tear gas — will color those developments. What’s clear is that Macau is watching intently. …
Is Macau ripe for a Hong Kong-style Umbrella Revolution? Alex Choi, an assistant professor in public administration at the University of Macao, told FP that while the territory’s labor movement gathered steam, he doesn’t expect them to shift their focus from better wages to universal suffrage any time soon. Choi said it would be “a big jump” to go from labor issues to “a fight for democracy and against Beijing.” So far, he said, the labor movement hasn’t appeared eager to take that leap.
The main goal of the “one country, two systems” policy by which China governs Hong Kong is to provide a template for Taiwan, but the developments of recent years clearly show China placing increasingly tight restrictions on Hong Kong’s self-governance. It’s not just that China has reneged on its promise that Hong Kong’s system would remain “unchanged for 50 years.” A more serious problem is that conflicts within Hong Kong society have proliferated. The wealth disparity there cannot be solved via existing structures, and the huge influx of mainland tourists, as well as mainlanders who become Hong Kong residents, have also created even more social problems. Taiwan faces similar concerns. We have seen that Taiwan and the Chinese government have signed a number of trade agreements exposing Taiwan to industrial outsourcing, falling salaries, increases in the disparity between rich and poor, national security risks, and other crises.