Wed, Jan 23, 2019 - Page 8 News List

China’s creeping control in Taiwan

By Chang Hsun-ching 張勳慶

Hong Kong writer and critic Leung Man-tao (梁文道) last week published an article on the Hong Kong-based Stand News Web site, entitled “S.F. Express operates one country, two systems.”

Leung described how, after purchasing some books during a trip to Taiwan, he asked his hotel to help him send them to Hong Kong by courier.

However, upon returning home, Leung received an e-mail from the hotel informing him that “due to recent controls imposed by the Chinese authorities on the contents of articles and books, three of your books could not be delivered by the courier.”

The books were Out of China: How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination by Robert Bickers, The Great Debate by Yuval Levin and one of the Intellectual History series by various authors.

The incident made Leung question whether China’s “one country, two systems” model has already taken hold in Taiwan.

This is what used to happen during the Martial Law era, when disputes arose over the prohibition of books by state censors. For the same to happen in today’s democratic Taiwan would require large-scale manipulation and control. There are several questions about this episode that require answers.

First, was it the Taiwanese subsidiary of China-based S.F. Express Co or some other party that took upon itself to act as the White Terror-era Taiwan Garrison Command and prohibit the books from being shipped to Hong Kong?

As the criteria used by the courier exactly matched the rules stipulated by the Chinese government, the incident amounts to the infiltration and surveillance of a commercial courier company’s operational systems on Taiwanese soil, and more than just an exercise in “thought control.”

This begs the question: Who is pulling the strings behind the scenes and how do they wield so much power that they were able to breach a private individual’s privacy and property rights?

In addition to throwing up a legal debate on whether there has been an infringement of consumers’ rights, this unthinkable incident also raises questions regarding freedom of the press, as it involves the shipping of books across borders.

Who exactly has taken it upon themselves to check which books can be shipped from Taiwan to Hong Kong?

Remember the handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China in 1997. The promise made by Beijing at the time that Hong Kong would enjoy 50 years without changes has without a doubt been broken, as people today see the editorial freedom of Hong Kong’s press compromised and booksellers kidnapped and taken to China to face trial — just two examples among a plethora of similar incidents.

In addition to the “one country, two systems” model having morphed into an authoritarian system, just as concerning is the Chinese speculative investment that has poured into Hong Kong — where it pushes up land and property prices — as well as the tsunami of spending by Chinese consumers that are creating a bubble economy. Today’s Hong Kong has lost its original vitality and been stripped of its soul.

The question is whether similar techniques are being used in some places in Taiwan and whether the public will be able to see through the inestimable losses that will come from allowing China to infiltrate Taiwan’s economy.

The economic bubble in Taiwan continues to be inflated by Chinese investment. One day — perhaps too late — people will awaken from their slumber and realize that Taiwan has been sleepwalking into “one country, two systems” authoritarianism, from which it will be extremely difficult to extricate itself.

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