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Sat, Feb 17, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Mayor disgruntled with Taipei

LOOKING AHEAD Upon learning after his trip to Hong Kong that Taipei was not on par with its counterpart in some areas, Ma is taking steps to ensure the city improves

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

"But at least China sends out a clear message that it doesn't want Ma to be misquoted nor does it wish to see Ma misunderstood by his supporters, because after all Ma is more in line with China's policy," he said.

However, China's friendly response cannot be interpreted as China's strong preference for Ma.

"China has long been hostile to Taiwan and the KMT. It's hard to say that this single move shows China's particular penchant for Ma," he said.

Chang Wu-ueh (張五岳), director of the Institute of China Studies (大陸研究所) at Tamkang University (淡江大學), said that China's support for Ma may have both a positive and negative impact.

"The positive side is that Ma may be one of only a few suitable candidates for bilateral talks with China," Chang said. "The flip side is that he might lose support from the electorate, especially those grassroots Taiwanese groups who prefer the idea of independence or maintaining the status quo," Chang said.

The Anson effect

The no-show of Anson Chan is seen by many as one of the biggest setbacks of Ma's high-profile visit. Some political analysts, however, dismissed the event's significance.

"Although Chan was Hong Kong's No. 2 official, since she is about to retire from her current post, I don't think it matters that much that Ma failed to see her," Chang said.

"Since Chan is no longer a key figure in Hong Kong's political arena, what matters to Ma is that he gets to see the No. 1 man," he said.

Chang's view was echoed by Chao. "I don't think Ma's visit was undermined by the no-show of Chan although Chan represents the legacy of western-style autonomy and rule of law during the British colonial era," he said. "Ma's visit overall has more of a positive impact than a negative one, on both Ma and Taiwan, thanks to the overwhelming and positive media coverage."

Ma had originally been scheduled to have a dinner date with Anson Chan on Wednesday, but the plan fell flat when Chan failed to show up due to a "tight schedule."

It is widely suspected that Beijing's interference might have been behind Chan's absence. The no-show is also widely seen by many as part of a continuing series of attempts by China to force her out of the civil service.

Chan, who has held her post since British colonial days, had enjoyed overwhelming popularity over Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華), but she plans to retire in April.

On Thursday, Tung named Donald Tsang (曾蔭權) to replace Chan, marking the territory's biggest political shuffle since returning to China in 1997.

Popularity on Chinese soil

Ma's unprecedented goodwill mission to Chinese soil has stirred up a media frenzy rarely created by Hong Kong officials, especially his counterpart, Tung Chee-hwa.

During the closed-door meeting between the two, Tung even asked Ma's advice on how to improve his personal image. Ma jokingly told Tung to develop the habit of exercising, especially jogging.

In addition to his good looks, Huang Te-pei (黃德北), political science professor at National Chengchi University, said that Ma's popularity has a lot to do with his close association with Hong Kong.

"Because he was born there, Hong Kong people see him as one of their own," he said. "Besides, Ma, an elected government official, knows how to sell himself by being open and close to the public," he said.

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