Early this month, an enthusiastic President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) announced that Taiwan’s representative office in Hong Kong, previously known as the Chung Hwa Travel Service, would be renamed the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, which came into effect on Friday. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in Macau was also renamed the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office on July 4.
Ma believed that changing the names from “travel service” and “center” to “office” was a novel and greatly imaginative move. However, a closer look shows that the name changes in Hong Kong and Macau have nothing to do with the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty.
The name changes would never have gone through without pressure from Beijing. And why was the absurd name “Chung Hwa Travel Service” used in the first place? It was the result of a riot organized by a group of pro-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) activists visiting Hong Kong on Double Ten National Day in 1956. The then-British government reacted by deciding not to allow the Republic of China to establish official representation in Hong Kong. In other words, it was not directly related to cross-strait tensions.
The name changes also show that the fastest road to Hong Kong is via Beijing. Thus, the so-called “one country, two systems” policy is completely ineffective.
In addition to the name changes, Hong Kong and Macau are to establish economic and cultural offices in Taiwan — Hong Kong will do this before the end of this year.
Hong Kong has already established similar offices in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, as well as in the US, Germany, Japan and other countries. Since it is not a country, it can only establish representative offices, not embassies.
However, since Hong Kong might treat its Taiwan office in the same way as it treats its offices in Guangzhou and Chengdu, it will be interesting to see if it will appoint a director-level representative, as it has in Beijing, or a deputy director-level representative.
If the Ma administration accepts a deputy director-level representative, wouldn’t that mean that Ma does not adhere to the policy of “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” and imply that he recognizes Taiwan as a province of the People’s Republic of China?
After Hong Kong and Macau have set up their representative offices in Taiwan, the next issue will be the establishment of cross-strait representative offices. This involves Taiwan’s political status and will lead to cross-strait political talks.
Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) is eager to resolve the Taiwan issue before his retirement at the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party late next year.
This makes it very likely that the reason Beijing pressured Hong Kong and Macau to accept the name changes was to pave the way for cross-strait political talks by creating the atmosphere and pressure required to make political talks unavoidable.
Ma has said that the name changes were part of the “peace bonus” resulting from his China policy.
This may well have been a deliberate attempt to cover the fact that the name changes might accelerate the beginning of cross-strait talks on unification.
Ma has swallowed China’s sugarcoated pill, talking widely about how it has been one of his political achievements and disregarding the pressure for political talks it has created. The way he and his administration have handled the name changes is very worrying.
Lai I-chung is an executive committee member of Taiwan Thinktank.
TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG
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