Recently, the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Program released the latest findings on Hong Kong residents' opinions on issues involving Taiwan. The results obtained earlier this month revealed that 83 percent of respondents interviewed opposed Taiwanese independence and 60 percent opposed Taiwan rejoining the UN. Sixty percent were confident in ultimate reunification across the Taiwan Strait. As for the applicability of the "one country, two systems" policy to Taiwan, 53 percent gave a positive view while 33 percent gave a negative view.
There has been an upward trend in these statistics. What does this indicate in the current condition of the Hong Kong people? And why should we take note of what Hong Kongers think about these issues.
Robert Ting-yiu Chung (鐘庭耀), director of the program, observed that"Hong Kong people's strong feelings against the independence of Taiwan are both a function of their increasing agreement with the central government viewpoint after the handover, as well as an indicator of their displeasure over President Chen Shiu-bian's (陳水扁) recent speeches and actions, especially his recent move to cease the function of the National Unification Council and the application of its guidelines."
Some local reporters seem to agree with Chung, citing his analysis uncritically. However, if we take a look at other surveys conducted by the program, then we should get a clearer picture of why Hong Kong residents hold mixed views on Taiwan.
First, Hong Kong people are only reflecting their personal preference when they were asked about the applicability of "one country, two systems" to Taiwan. Besides, although Hong Kongers were skeptical about the city's reversion to China in 1997, their confidence in the "one country, two systems" formula has grown steadily over the years.
This has something to do with Beijing's efforts to exercise self-restraint with regard to Hong Kong affairs. Beijing has also become increasing tactful in the way it rules Hong Kong and has come up with a strategy in dealing with democracy there. This is why Hong Kongers are unable to grasp the political reality facing Taiwan and what Taiwan needs on the diplomatic front. This lack of understanding has led them to believe that the "one country, two systems" formula is also applicable to Taiwan.
Second, many Hong Kong people believe in cross-strait reunification not because they are concerned about Taiwan's public opinion or political changes but because they are satisfied with the current situation in Hong Kong. As Hong Kong's political and economic situation improves, its resident's confidence in cross-strait unification has grown deeper.
Conversely, if Hong Kong were chaotic in every respect and public discontent were to rise, opinions there would not be so positive. The mass rally that took place in July 2003 in Hong Kong and Beijing's nomination of Donald Tsang (
Third, Hong Kongers satisfaction with the Hong Kong government's level of democratization has not diminished as a result of Tsang's political reforms being rejected. Rather, their satisfaction level has risen over the years. Moreover, growing numbers of Hong Kong residents are viewing themselves as Chinese rather than Hong Kongers.