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Sat, Feb 03, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Hong Kong institute invites Taipei city mayor for a visit

REUTERS , HONG KONG

A rising star in Taiwan's main opposition party has been invited to Hong Kong, a move analysts say is the latest in a series of bids by China to isolate President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was invited to visit the territory in mid-February by a think tank headed by the adviser to the territory's Beijing-appointed leader Tung Chee-hwa (董建華).

Since Chen's election in March, Beijing has demanded he embrace its "one-China" principle and opened its arms to Taiwan business and opposition leaders. But Chen has resisted.

A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute, which is coordinating Ma's Feb. 11 to 14 visit, said it was not organized by the government and has no political implications.

"Our institute has invited him to give a key note speech at a dinner celebrating our fifth anniversary on Feb. 11. I think he'll talk about Hong Kong-Taiwan relations," Jane Lee said.

"Our institute has been on good terms with Taipei's mayor and government. It's not because of President Chen. It's totally unrelated to that. Our institute has been promoting Hong Kong's cooperation with other cities," she said.

Lee said meetings will be arranged between Ma and some Hong Kong government officials, but she declined to elaborate.

Political analysts, however, said the invitation could serve to further isolate Chen, whose popularity at home is flagging after eight messy months in office.

"Ma Ying-jeou's visit is part of the Chinese government's policy to oppose Taiwanese independence and its favorable treatment to Taiwan's opposition party members," said Lau Siu-kai, sociology professor at the Chinese University. "China's policy is to befriend those who are against independence and to isolate Chen Shui-bian," he added.

Lau's view was echoed by political commentator Lau Yui-siu.

"We can see China's policy on Taiwan is to contact any administrative power outside the DPP. On this, Hong Kong naturally has to match Beijing's policy," Lau Yui-siu said.

"That will help Taiwanese governments at local levels to put pressure on Taiwan's central government," he said.

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