Wed, Jul 09, 2003 - Page 8 News List

HK: Taiwan's future under China

By Huang Tien-lin 黃天麟

Nobody imagined that more than 400,000 people in Hong Kong would participate in the July 1 demonstration against Article 23 of the Basic Law. With temperatures exceeding 30℃, protesters braved the blazing sun and waved flags as they proceeded from Causeway Bay to Central in a crowd so large that when the leading ranks arrived at their destination, those at the tail had yet to depart. The people of Hong Kong can truly be said to have vented their post-1997 sense of deep disappointment and grievances with "one country, two systems."

But having demonstrated, what has changed? There is nothing that China can do now to change Hong Kong's retrocession.

Beijing has also answered US and British opposition very clearly, saying that this is China's domestic affair and foreign countries have no right to speak up. Thus the predictable outcome will be a situation exactly like that before the demonstration: Hong Kong's chief executive doesn't dare go against Beijing's wishes.

What is still comforting, however, is that Beijing certainly won't try to exact revenge on the demonstrators. Instead, the curtain will be allowed to fall peacefully on this incident and there will be a return to quietude because Beijing wants Hong Kong to serve as a showcase to display "one country, two systems" to Taiwan and bolster the influence of Taiwan's unificationist faction. Thus the people of Hong Kong should take this opportunity to recognize the significance of an independent Taiwan, as it is Taiwan's existence that gives Hong Kong the freedom to hold demonstrations.

If people have not become forgetful, they will recall how resplendent the ceremony marking the handover of Hong Kong to China was. Among Hong Kong's pro-China figures, none neglected to say that with the Chinese countryside as its hinterland, Hong Kong's future would be bright. But in the past six years, the territory's real estate prices have fallen by half (because everyone is buying real estate in China), unemployment has risen from 2.2 percent to 8.2 percent in May (because businesses are transferring their manufacturing bases to China to take advantage of China's resources), and the economic growth rate has fallen from 5.1 percent in 1997 to last year's 2.3 percent.

The result of strengthening interaction with China has been that the Kowloon-Guangzhou railway runs at capacity every day with passengers going to China empty-handed and returning laden with purchases. Hong Kong's department stores have taken a nose dive. Hong Kong was also the first to bear the brunt of the SARS epidemic. All of this in conjunction with the chill of shrinking political freedoms finally prompted the massive July 1 demonstration. The changes in Hong Kong over the past six years truly make one shed tears.

This is the situation in Hong Kong. Now take a look at Taiwan. Taiwan's bold advance westward has already helped China amass more than US$300 billion in foreign currency while sending Taiwan's economy down the path Hong Kong has taken. But most discouragingly, many people in Taiwan still trumpet calls for "direct links to save Taiwan" or say "China is Taiwan's opportunity." Some even advocate "promoting cross-strait exchanges under the premise of one China."

If the people of Taiwan keep failing to learn a lesson from Hong Kong's experience, they will eventually invite a real calamity. It will be too late for regrets when Taiwan's sovereignty has already been lost under the rubric of one China. When that time comes, will we follow Hong Kong's example and hold such a massive protest march? The result definitely won't be peaceful because after taking back Taiwan, Beijing will no longer have any need for a showcase requiring it to disguise its authoritarian nature.

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