Sat, Sep 11, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Hong Kong,Taiwan go down their own roads

COMMUNICATION GAP The legacies left by their colonial masters echo in the conflicting views Hong Kongers and Taiwanese have of each other and their politics

By Cynthia Lee and Jennifer Lee  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTERS

Following in Taiwan's footsteps, Hong Kong in recent years has been struggling to become more democratic. Tomorrow's Legisla-tive Council elections are seen by many as a critical point in Hong Kong's democratic process. Democracy will have taken a step forward if the Democrats win a majority on the council.

Though some consider Tai-wan's democratization to be a role model for Hong Kong, people there have a more conservative outlook.

Paul Lin (林保華), also known as Linfeng (凌峰), writes commentaries for newspapers in Taiwan and Hong Kong (including the Taipei Times). Lin said it will be difficult for Hong Kong to democratize.

"Democracy in Hong Kong depends on China. If mainland officials think democracy will destroy the territory's stability and economy, they will keep postponing the schedule for Hong Kong's political reform," he said.

Having observed Taiwan and Hong Kong for more than 20 years, Lin sees a very close relationship between the two.

Role Model

"As long as Taiwan remains a threat to China, the Chinese government will treat Hong Kong better. That is because mainland officials see Hong Kong's `one country, two systems' as a role model for Taiwan," Lin said.

But Legislative Council member Emily Lau (劉惠卿) said the model has not impressed Taiwan.

"I guessed they [the Tai-wanese] have never believed in it. They have not believed in it since the 1980s," she said.

Pu Ta-chung (卜大中), chief writer at the Apple Daily, the only newspaper in this country run by Hong Kongers, said there is a lack of understanding between the people of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"Taiwanese take pleasure in Hong Kong's misfortunes, and Hong Kongers do the same with Taiwan. The relationship between the two is very unhealthy," Pu said.

This is due to few people in Hong Kong being sympathetic to Taiwan's isolation in the face of China's bullying, he said.

Given the number of people traveling between Hong Kong and Taiwan -- and the number of expatriates in both places, there ought to be a closer relationship between the two.

According to the statistics from the Mainland Affairs Coun-cil's Department of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, there are 37,000 Hong Kongers residing in Taiwan, while the number of Taiwanese in the territory is around 40,000. The number of tourists from Hong Kong reached 240,000 last year and a growing number of such tourists are young people.

Almost all those interviewed for this article, however, felt that Hong Kongers and Taiwanese do not care about each other.

Indifference

"Taiwan does not care about Hong Kong and vice versa. First, there is the language problem and, second, the two governments do not allow any communication between their officials. Hong Kong people know Taiwan is a dreaded topic to China's central government, and so try to avoid if possible," Lau said.

Pu feels there is a growing dislike between the two peoples.

"Whenever Taiwanese see Hong Kong being oppressed by China -- for example, the attempt to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law or China's denial of the Hong Kong people's call for direct elections -- they feel happy. At the same time, when Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was elected president, many Hong Kong people criticized the Taiwanese in order to please China."

He said that whenever Hong Kong and China "speak the same language," the Taiwanese hate Hong Kong.

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