Translated by Rong Xiaoqing
The uprisings in Hong Kong – triggered by the proposed extradition law – and a deteriorating relationship between Taiwan and Beijing in the months before Taiwan’s presidential election prompted the younger generation of Taiwanese in the U.S. to travel back home to vote.
Fearing the “demise of a nation,” many young Taiwanese abroad decided to return to cast their ballots “no matter how expensive the air fares are at this time of the year.” Some of them, taking a red-eye flight, rushed to the poll sites right after their flight landed.
Anita Yen, who works in New York, had been following the election via newspapers, TV, YouTube and Facebook. She said being abroad helps her better assess Taiwan’s status from an international perspective. But in the end, she decided to purchase a flight ticket back home to vote, without considering the price.
“During the months I had been reading about Taiwan’s election in the media, it became clear to me that as an overseas Taiwanese I have an obligation to contribute to democracy in Taiwan,” Yen said.
Having registered as an overseas voter last December, Yen thought she would only need to present her photo ID at the poll site, but she was required to show her passport in order to be allowed to cast her ballot. She didn’t complain, though.
“Now that I had taken the long trip from the U.S. to come back, I won’t mind taking a short trip to go back home to fetch my passport,” she said.
Chengjun Wu, who had spent several months mobilizing overseas Taiwanese students and second-generation Taiwanese in New York to go back to vote, went to Taiwan himself on a red-eye flight in the wee hours of election day on Jan. 11.
Wu said that of his friends, nine out ten also answered his calls to go back to vote. He estimated that 5 to 10 percent of the 74.9 percent turnout rate on election day was contributed by Taiwanese based overseas, and together they helped the incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen win reelection. He said this shows that Taiwanese students abroad are passionate about participating in politics, making their voices heard and contributing to their country’s future.
Derek Chang, a second-generation Taiwanese, said he flew for more than 10 hours to Taiwan to cast his ballot because he views voting as his obligation, one vital to guarding democracy.
The uprising in Hong Kong shed light on the vulnerability of that democracy, Chang said – and he was afraid that if the voters missed this opportunity, the election in 2020 would be the last one.
“I cherish my voting right and am proud to be a Taiwanese,” said Chang. “I hope the elected party keeps guarding the value of democracy in Taiwan.”