(Reuters) – Taiwan’s president on Friday urged China to move toward a more democratic style of development, reiterating his strong support for pro-democracy demonstrations in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong.
Ma Ying-jeou used his speech at Taiwan’s National Day celebrations to discuss the island’s own democratic development in remarks that appeared to show Beijing that Taiwan would never give up its own democracy and rule of law.
China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war to the communists.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring the now proudly democratic Taiwan under its control.
The protests in Hong Kong seeking to democratically and directly elect the city’s chief executive have stirred concern in Taiwan that it could share the experience of Hong Kong should the island ever come under Chinese control.
China is a rapidly developing economy, Ma said, adding that as it moves towards becoming a more prosperous society, its people will also want more democracy and greater rule of law.
“Such a desire has never been a monopoly of the West, but it is the right of all humankind,” he added.
He repeated that he firmly supported the pursuit of the people of Hong Kong to directly and democratically elect their own leader.
Ma said while the democratic system was not perfect, it encouraged dialogue and the resolution of issues.
“Thirty years ago, when Deng Xiaoping was pushing for reform and opening up in the mainland, he famously proposed letting some people get rich first,” Ma said, referring to one of China’s revered leaders.
“So why couldn’t they do the same thing in Hong Kong, and let some people go democratic first?”
Since taking office in 2008, the China-friendly Ma has signed a series of landmark economic and trade deals with Beijing.
But deep suspicions remain, especially in Taiwan, which has shown little interest in wanting to rush political talks with China, whose leader Xi Jinping has shown no signs of loosening the Communist Party’s grip on power.