On Sept. 27 1993, the Chinese government arrested a former colleague of mine, Xi Yang (
The importance of the Xinhua News Agency is not related to its journalism, but to its political role in Hong Kong.
Everybody knows all too well that Xinhua was not only a news agency in Hong Kong, but actually served as the China's de facto embassy, or more precisely, the underground government and local headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party, both before and after 1997.
Xinhua had been operating under a veil of secrecy for more than 52 years in Hong Kong. It was well known that the Chinese leadership in 1949 authorized the branch to serve as its contact with the British colonial government in the absence of formal relations. In fact, the Xinhua office had been run by its first director, Qiao Guanhua (
Xu Jiatun (
It is only now that Beijing has decided to change the office's name to represent its longstanding status as a political organ -- it is now called the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government (
At the renaming ceremony Jiang Enzhu (
This statement sounds reasonable enough. But why bother changing the name at all, and why now?
According to news reports, an anonymous senior government official confirmed the widely acknowledged "secret" that the several hundred Xinhua employees in Hong Kong are Chinese government officials. Another 80 to 90 people actually do work as journalists for Xinhua in a separate editorial office, he clarified.
That is what we journalists used to refer to "Big Xinhua" (
Does this mean we can expect the Xinhua News Agency in Hong Kong to be more journalistically professional in the future? If so, would its "political role" be less than that of the other branches around the world, thus fulfilling the promise of "one country, two systems (
The answers to both questions are "no" and "no."
But the renaming does have an important political point. It is an announcement that Hong Kong and Macau are both now territories belonging to China and therefore Xinhua no longer needs to serve a diplomatic role.
At best, the change can be seen as a step toward "democracy with Chinese characteristics." Instead of a single "party-state-media" entity (
But what the name change proves above all else, is that Beijing will make decisions directly without any reference to its new territories.
Only when a Hong Kong newspaper broke the news on Jan. 15 did the people -- including officials -- in Hong Kong and Macau know that the name of Xinhua was going to change.
Hong Kong's National Peoples's Congress local deputy (
In fact, Tung Chee-hua (
And just what are the Liaison Office's responsibilities? According to a Xinhua dispatch, the office will:
* liaise with the office of the commissioner of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and with the Hong Kong Garrison;
* liaise with and help PRC authorities supervise China-funded organizations;
* liaise with members of all the professions in the SAR, foster cross-border exchanges and reflect the views of Hong Kong people to the PRC government;
* deal with affairs related to Taiwan; and
* handle "central government tasks."
Though, for the most part, the central Chinese government has maintained a hands-off policy in dealing with the territory over the past two-and-a-half years, many critics said that this is because Tung has "decided" everything according to the will of Beijing.
It is hardly surprising that Tung Chee-hua, a successful and well-known businessman but a hesitant politician, has been accused of being a "yes-man" to Beijing. Local officials have complained that he never discussed with them whether Hong Kong should apply to be host of the next Asian Games. His decision to do so was to create a platform for China's athletes. This might also answer the question why Tung didn't think the Liaison Office's responsibilities will "impinge on Hong Kong's autonomy" -- there isn't much left to impinge on.
In an old joke about Mao Zedong (
Cheryl Lai (
INCURSION: After 13 PLA aircraft flew into Taiwan’s ADIZ, the US Department of State said that China should rather ‘engage in meaningful dialogue’ with Taiwan US President Joe Biden’s administration on Saturday urged China to stop placing military pressure on Taiwan, while calling on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to engage in peaceful dialogue. The statement by the US Department of State was issued after 13 Chinese military aircraft flew into Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Saturday, the highest number observed in a single day this year, the Ministry of National Defense said. The air force scrambled fighter jets to monitor the Chinese aircraft, issuing radio warnings and mobilizing air defense assets until the planes left the ADIZ. The US “notes
‘INCREASED VIGILANCE’: A source of infection has not yet been found for the latest two cases in a hospital cluster, which should serve as a warning, Chen Shih-chung said A total of 2,991 people associated with a COVID-19 cluster infection at Taoyuan General Hospital have been put under home isolation, after an emergency expanded isolation order was issued on Sunday evening, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Fifteen people have so far tested positive in the cluster infection. The first case in the cluster (case No. 838) was reported on Jan. 12 — a doctor who treated an infected patient who had returned from the US. Contact tracing for the first 13 cases found connections to case No. 838, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who
FAMILY UNIT: The CECC warned that the eldest sister of the latest case, who also has COVID-19, visited Taoyuan’s Chungping evening market on Tuesday and Wednesday The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported a domestic case of COVID-19, associated with a recent cluster infection at Taoyuan General Hospital, and two imported cases. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that the latest case (No. 885) is a woman in her 50s, who is the third daughter of case No. 881, a man in his 90s. The woman is the main caregiver of her elderly father, who had been hospitalized earlier this month and was treated by a nurse (case No. 852) from Monday to Thursday last week, he said, adding that
DUBIOUS HONOR? A man in his 90s, who tested positive yesterday and is part of the Taoyuan hospital cluster, is the oldest person in Taiwan to have contracted COVID-19 Taiwan yesterday recorded six new imported cases of COVID-19 and two new domestic cases, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said, adding that the local infections are linked to the cluster at Taoyuan General Hospital, which now totals 12 cases. One of the domestic cases is a man in his 90s, who was treated earlier this month at Taoyuan General Hospital and tested negative for COVID-19 on Monday last week, four days before he was discharged, the center said in a statement. After one of the nurses on the ward was confirmed on Saturday last week to have contracted COVID-19, the