Historically, the DPP embodies the Taiwanese struggle against authoritarianism, the defense of individual rights and the promotion of democratic values. The more salient the question of values and the sovereignty issue are in the electoral race, the greater the chance of DPP victory.
Her main opponent from the Kuomintang (KMT), Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu, has failed so far to show similar clarity and consistency. Han famously declared that Taiwan would never accept "one country, two systems", "unless it is over my dead body." But on a trip to Hong Kong, Macao and Shenzhen last March, he accepted an invitation to a closed-doors meeting off the record at the Liaison Office of the Chinese government – the entity through which Beijing rules the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, at least on the most important matters. If this was intended as a calibrated move to create some space for strategic ambiguity, the risk did not pay off.
To his audience in China, Han was offering space to pretend that the KMT would not seek open confrontation over "one country, two systems." To his public in Taiwan, he was aiming to demonstrate his ability to reopen communication channels with the PRC in order to negotiate economic agreements (the official purpose of his trip was to win markets for Taiwanese agricultural products). But perhaps inevitably for someone without strong credentials as a leader, his ambiguous stance mostly raised doubts in Taiwan that he may pursue a hidden agenda in cooperation with Beijing.
The Hong Kong crisis raises the bar for the opposition to convince the electorate that a pro-China business stance can coexist with the resolute defense of Taiwan’s political system and social model. In power under the presidency of Ma Ying-jeou (2008-2016), the KMT also faced a social movement led by the youth against its push to conclude with Beijing a service trade agreement without democratic oversight. The 2014 Sunflower movement resulted in an occupation of Taiwan’s Parliament and the rising influence of a new generation of social activists. It also became a major source of inspiration for Hong Kong. For Hong Kong citizens who value political freedom, Taiwan is an attractive destination, as shown by the increase by 28% of Hong Kong emigration to Taiwan during the first half of 2019.
This human proximity is perhaps what former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa really had in mind when he blamed "foreign forces" in Taiwan for the demonstrations and the violence. But he seemed to allude to organized and covert government support. He provided no evidence however, and there is none in the public domain either. In reality, the signs point in the exact opposite direction. Apart from political declarations in support of free democratic elections in Hong Kong as the only way out of the crisis and moral encouragement for the pro-democracy activists, the Taiwanese government is watching idly how the situation develops.