Sat, Jun 14, 2014 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Beijing and unpalatable truths

Beijing delivered several very direct messages this week seen as stinging reminders to those in Taiwan and elsewhere who fantasize about rapprochement with Zhongnanhai’s masters and insist that China is changing under its modern-minded new leaders.

The first was to activists in Hong Kong who have stepped up their efforts over the past year to win universal suffrage in the 2017 leadership selection and are planning an “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” protest next month. One cannot use the word “election” in connection with 2017 because pro-Beijing, pro-business selection committees casting ballots for a pre-approved candidate can hardly be called an election.

“Do not forget who is in charge” was the word from on high, delivered on Tuesday in the form of a white paper reiterating Beijing’s control over the territory — and Macao — and its “one country, two systems” policy. The paper spoke against what it called outside forces that are trying to use the territory to interfere in China’s domestic affairs.

That the white paper was issued just a few weeks after the end of the so-called five-month “public consultation” on electoral reform launched in Hong Kong in December last year gives a good idea of what the “consultation” process will be.

It looks like Beijing has already ghostwritten the plan.

Just a day later, Beijing’s message was reinforced by some unusual ventriloquist’s dummies — several foreign business groups in the territory who paid for a newspaper advertisement asking organizers to rethink the “Occupy Central” plan, saying that the pro-democracy protest could paralyze the financial district, hurting not only multinationals, but small businesses and vendors as well.

Interestingly, the ad ran the same day the New York Times published a story about two big British banks ending their long-running advertising arrangements with the Apple Daily because of what a Next Media Ltd executive said was an order from Beijing — although both banks claim the decisions were purely commercial in nature. It was another indication of just how much less free Hong Kong’s free press has become — and more obsequious toward Beijing — since the 1997 handover, a trend that many people fear is also under way in Taiwan.

The third message this week was for Taiwan and came courtesy of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Fan Liqing (范麗青), who said that it was not up to the 23 million people of this nation alone to determine their future, but rather that it was a decision to be made by “all Chinese people.”

Given that Beijing has never allowed the Chinese people to truly decide anything, the idea that it would allow some form of a plebiscite on Taiwan is risible.

It is also laughable to expect that the rights and wishes of the Taiwanese would be either respected or honored, given the xenophobic nature of Chinese nationalism that Beijing has been encouraging in recent years — against Japan, the US and others — as a way of distracting the public from the escalating gaps between rich and poor and coastal provinces and inland provinces, and given its unwillingness to either recognize or redress the complaints of non-Han Chinese citizens such as Tibetans and Uighurs.

It is time to stop tip-toeing around, fearful of saying or doing something to awake the grouchy dragon across the Taiwan Strait, because there is no way of staying on its good side — unless one agrees to be eaten.

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