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Tue, Feb 13, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Ma tells HK media to tone it down

CITY DIPLOMACY While down playing the political impact of his visit to the territory, Taipei's mayor said he plans to invite Tung Chee-hwa to Taiwan next year

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER IN HONG KONG

Tung Chee-hwa

PHOTO: AP

In an attempt to quell media speculation that focused on the more sensitive side of his trip, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reiterated yesterday that his five-day visit to Hong Kong was not political in nature.

During interviews carried in various local and international media yesterday, Ma said that he will invite Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) for a reciprocal visit to Taipei.

"I'll first thank him for making this trip possible, and further propose that the next two-city forum should take place in Taipei and focus on the issue of environmental protection. Finally, I'll offer my personal invitation for him to visit Taipei," he said.

Ma's trip to the Chinese territory prompted media curiosity over whether he was interested in visiting China in the future.

"I hope to visit China this year and no later than next year. And if I go, I'll play by the rules set by the Mainland Affairs Council," said Ma, a former deputy chairman of the council.

Ma's visit has been widely seen as a move by China to befriend Taiwan's local governments and to isolate President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Ma, however, dismissed the talk.

"The purpose of my visit is to exchange views with Hong Kong on city management ? The central government will ultimately benefit from it if the trip has made any contribution to cross-strait relations," he said.

Since Chen took office in May last year, his China policy has received much criticism from within political circles and from the public. His resistance to embrace the "one China" policy also has displeased China.

But Ma yesterday threw his support behind his old rival.

"Although Chen is widely seen as a fundamentalist on the issue of cross-strait relations, he has made many modifications and concessions over the past nine months," he said. "Don't underestimate his capability to handle cross-strait issues."

Though widely believed to be a future presidential candidate, Ma yesterday reiterated his wish to seek a second term as city mayor.

Commenting on Ma's visit -- which has stirred a feeding frenzy among Hong Kong's media -- Paul Yip Kwok-wah tried to down play the furor.

"It's a sentimental thing. I think Hong Kong people love him because he was born here and we're happy to see our own relative come home for a visit," he said.

Yip also dismissed speculation that cross-strait local government interaction would form the model for China-Taiwan communications in the future.

"I hope the media won't politicize Ma's visit. They should look at it from a more practical angle," Yip said.

When asked about Ma's rendition of the ROC's national anthem during a speech at Sunday's dinner celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute (香港政策研究所), Yip said he did not consider the act "inappropriate."

"I think the song sounds pretty good," he said.

Ma yesterday also delivered a speech on city management at the opening ceremony of the two-city forum. The subject of the one-day event was on urban development and transportation.

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