Taiwan has to be cautious when enhancing cross-strait ties, Hong Kong Legislative Council member Albert Ho (何俊仁) said in Taipei yesterday, basing his warning on Hong Kong’s experience of being under China’s “one country, two systems” policy since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.
“As a Chinese from Hong Kong, of course I would be happy to see the two sides of the Strait enhancing relations, but I definitely would not want to see Taiwan being conquered by mainland China with economic power before the democratization of mainland China,” Ho said on the sidelines of a forum on cross-strait relations from a Hong Kong perspective.
“There are many things about which we can’t make our own decisions in Hong Kong. Because we are not a sovereign country, we don’t have the bargaining power. However, it’s different for Taiwan and I hope the people of Taiwan can use your bargaining power well. It would be a pity if you just give it up,” he said.
At the forum, Ho, speaking to a Taiwanese audience ahead of the 16th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China on Monday, said that China has made promises to maintain the democratic system in Hong Kong. However, Beijing is trying to impose more restrictions on freedom and democracy in different ways, “and we still don’t have direct suffrage for our chief executive.”
Elaborating on China’s economic control over Hong Kong, Ho said that while China acts like it respects and follows the Hong Kong Basic Law, “it extends its influence by sponsoring non-governmental organizations and grassroots community organizations in Hong Kong.”
“China also mobilizes legislative council members, especially those who have economic interests there, to legitimately pass policies that favor the mainland and enhance Beijing’s influence over Hong Kong,” Ho said.
Asked to comment on the cross-strait service trade agreement that Taiwan signed with China on Friday last week, Ho said that Taiwan may face the same situation as Hong Kong did when it signed the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement agreement with China.
“The agreement may look like Hong Kong and the mainland are mutually opening up markets to each other, but in fact China opened up only the front door, but not the many small doors behind it, while Hong Kong, an economically highly liberalized city, has nothing behind the front door,” Ho said. “Hence, capital from China can flow freely into Hong Kong, but capital from Hong Kong runs into many barriers after entering into the Chinese market.”
Therefore, Ho said, Taiwanese should stay “awake” when facing China’s economic pressure.
“Many people in Hong Kong would worry that if we put too much emphasis on the values of freedom and democracy when dealing with China, it would hurt Hong Kong economically,” he said. “However, I would say that in the long run, an authoritarian regime would hurt the economy the most.”