Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Ma ignoring HK at Taiwan’s peril

By John Lim 林泉忠

This is despite the results of Legislative Council of Hong Kong elections for the past two decades showing that pan pro-democracy forces have consistently garnered between 55 and 60 percent of the vote, indicating that they are in tune with mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong.

It is precisely because of this that Beijing views these factions and their supporters, who are willing to challenge its authority, as anti-China forces that will stir up trouble. It is only natural, then, that Beijing sees them as a valid target.

Having said that, the “one country, two systems” model has, for the past 17 years, essentially safeguarded Hong Kongers’ freedom of information and allowed them to keep their own political, legal, monetary and education systems, separate from China’s.

This policy has also given them room to fight for democracy and to hold events such as commemorations of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 4, 1989. However, in those 17 years, the Chinese government has failed to win the hearts and minds of the Hong Kong public, who steadfastly refuse to “do as they are told.”

That view is given more credence through the increasingly inventive ways in which Hong Kongers are standing up to Beijing — Occupy Central being a case in point — and their methods are increasingly pushing the boundaries, going above and beyond what Beijing is prepared to tolerate.

The release of a State Council “white paper” on “one country, two systems” by the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office was intended to stop this trend.

The main feature of that report was its emphasis on “one country” and toning down of the “two systems” part of the policy. Evidently, Beijing has already started to lose patience with Hong Kongers who are “not doing as they are told.”

Previously, there were constraints on what China could do in Hong Kong, primarily because of three key reasons:

First, in the early stages of China’s reform drive, Hong Kong was seen as the goose that lays golden eggs. Second, the “one country, two systems” policy was a promise China had made to the international community, and third, Beijing wanted to hold Hong Kong up as an example for Taiwan.

However, since the beginning of China’s rise these three points are becoming less persuasive, including the need to show Taiwan a positive example.

Everyone knows that the “one country, two systems” framework was devised by the Chinese Communist Party with Taiwan in mind. Even though democratic Taiwan does not see this framework as an enticing prospect, Beijing screwing up with Hong Kong would make it even less appealing.

When Ma said that “Hong Kong’s situation is completely different to [Taiwan’s], so the situation there cannot be used to make suppositions about Taiwan’s future,” he is not wrong, but still, one cannot say that the way things pan out in the former British colony has absolutely nothing to do with Taiwan’s situation.

Almost every progressive measure taken to expand cross-strait exchanges over the past few years, from easing restrictions on Chinese tourists, to relaxing regulations on Chinese students studying in Taiwan, were tried out between Hong Kong and China first. Only after being tested in these ways were such measures implemented between Beijing and Taipei.

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