Former US consul-general Stephen Young has said that any promises Beijing makes to Taiwan under One Country, Two Systems “are not worth the paper they are written on.”

In an op-ed for the Taipei Times last week, he wrote that young Hong Kong activists had inherited false promises of freedom under the Handover agreement formulated by China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s.

“[T]he linkage to Hong Kong that Mr. Deng trumpeted so long ago has become a warning sign that a) communist promises are not to be trusted and b) Taiwan can be very fortunate that it is not Hong Kong,” Young wrote.

Stephen Young. File photo: US Gov’t.

Young was the US Consul General in Hong Kong between 2010 and 2013. He has since retired from the State Department.

In the column, he said hopes for a genuinely democratic political system in Hong Kong had soured and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had sought to emulate the harsh authoritarianism of his predecessor Mao Zedong: “Perhaps he — like his thuggish friend Vladimir Putin to the north — would like to become leader for life, emulating Mao and Stalin.”

China’s rubber-stamp parliament cleared the way for Xi to rule indefinitely earlier this month. The White House deemed it an internal matter for China.

‘Fuzzy crimes’

Young also wrote that Beijing had been unable to reckon with the emergence of young Hongkongers calling for genuine democracy. He said Umbrella Movement activists were charged with “fuzzy crimes,” with some released under Hong Kong’s independence court system.

“Unlike the older generation that seemed willing to trust long-term PRC promises, this new generation knows that what occurs in 2047 is no abstraction to them… So they, and their children, will be direct inheritors of the false freedoms glibly promised their parents and grandparents thirty years ago.”

File photo: In-Media.

Young concluded that Taiwanese are right to view Beijing’s promises with “with grave suspicion.”

“Possessing its own homegrown democratic institutions, its own competent defense, and its own very strong sense of national identity, the people of Taiwan and their elected government are wise to view with grave suspicion any promises thrown their way by Beijing.”

Beijing views Taiwan to be part of China awaiting eventual reunification.

The US cut ties with the island nation in 1979 in order to recognise the Communist-led mainland leadership. However, earlier this month, US President Donald Trump approved new rules to allow American diplomats to visit Taiwan officially.


Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.