Having traveled to Taiwan numerous times, I have found that the country is no longer a distant and foreign place to me. Although I might have changed my views on Taiwan's political climate, I have yet to change my feelings about the Taiwanese.
Last week my wife and I traveled to Hong Kong to visit my ailing father. Since I have been blacklisted by the Chinese government, I can only meet my family there.
From there, I flew on to Taiwan, where I suddenly rediscovered those feelings of closeness and familiarity -- a result of my boredom with Hong Kong.
Hong Kong stay
What I experienced during my brief stay in Hong Kong was not so much the restrictions on political and press freedom but the deteriorating standard of living. The streets were chaotic, pedestrians ignored traffic rules, people were rude to one another and talked loudly as if they were quarreling.
Dining in Hong Kong's restaurants was also an unpleasant experience. Regardless of their size, I found the restaurants sadly lacking in hospitality and courtesy. Service was perfunctory, and the staff were often abrasive.
During a visit to a local restaurant, one of my friends didn't like the set menu so we decided to choose our own dishes. We had to spend an awful lot of time arguing with the waiters before we were finally allowed to choose what we wanted to eat.
Another time when I dined with a number of friends, one of my friends who often visits Hong Kong advised us to check the bill before paying, as some restaurants inflate the prices on the check.
I've always tried to be careful not to judge other people. However, after double-checking our orders, my friend found that the price for a squab had been doubled, dishes that were not served had been charged for, and a number of service charges that should not have been included had been added to the bill.
These incidents remind me of a sign propped up by a roadside food stand that I once saw in Taiwan. It read "steamed buns made the night before," which were selling at a lower price than fresh steamed buns.
That sign reflects the atmosphere of honesty in Taiwanese society.
In Hong Kong, a day old steamed bun would have been sold at the same price as a fresh bun, and in China, people openly sell fake steamed buns. These three types of steamed buns represent three different social and moral standards.
The changes in Hong Kong have me worried about the future of Taiwan.
While China has not yet been able to impose its "one country, two systems" policy on Taiwan as it has done in Hong Kong, the poison of the communist society is spreading to Taiwan in many different ways.
If the 200,000 Taiwanese businessmen in China want to be successful in that society, they have to adapt to its system of deceit, bribery and corruption. In the long run, they may well import these vices into Taiwan.
Despite the constant political wrangling and media hubbub in Taiwan, it remains calm, orderly and courteous. Moreover, honesty still guides most businesses regardless of their size.
The Taiwan Strait has managed to contain the communist virus out of the country, and I hope that Taiwan can remain a healthy society so that whoever travels there will feel its warmth and beauty.
Cao Changqing is a freelance journalist.
Translated by Daniel Cheng
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