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Little-known hot spot of world democracy on China’s doorstep

  • Kinmen Island (also known as Quemoy) is governed by Taiwan/Republic of China but just a stone's throw away from the shores of mainland China.
  • Public attention focuses on the former British colony Hong Kong, struggling for its limited constitutional freedoms, but a vibrant participatory democracy has grown outside the Chinese shores.

Taipei, Sept.30.– Taiwan is a place that offers the world fascinating insights. “Last night there was another guy from the other side swimming over the bay,” says Ko Cheng-fang. “We sent him back home,” she adds. Ko Cheng-fang is a young female politician who represents the island of Kinmen (Quemoy) [area 153 km2, pop. 130,000], in the national Taiwanese parliament in Taipei.

The “other side” in this case is China, the world’s most populous country which celebrates its 70th anniversary as a Communist one-party state next Tuesday.

The beaches of Kinmen island and the Chinese provincial capital, Xiamen, are just a few hundred metres from each other, a strikingly close distance compared with the 200 kilometres which separate the shores of mainland China and the coastline of mainland Taiwan.

Not only night swimming refugees are trying their luck across the small bay. In the daytime, thousands of Chinese tourists are shipped to Kinmen by ferries for shopping and – unintentionally – to breathe a little bit of democratic fresh air ...

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** Note: This text is part of SWI's coverage of this year's Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy which opens in Taiwan on October 2. supports the event and will report on it in several languages.