Cross-strait academics have called China’s reported plan to merge its Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) with its Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) an example of the country portraying issues related to Taiwan and the two Chinese territories as “local” affairs.
Hong Kong Chinese-language daily Ming Pao on Friday reported that China is to merge several government agencies, including the TAO and HKMAO.
One reason for Beijing to merge the two agencies could be that a stronger link between Hong Kong and Taiwan on many issues has developed before and following the territory’s Occupy Central movement, National Chengchi University Institute of International Relations director Kou Chien-wen (寇健文) said, adding that Hong Kong relations have already entered a new phase.
Under these circumstances, Beijing needs to improve the coordination of its relations with Taiwan and the territory, which are currently managed by separate agencies, he said, adding that merging the two would meet this need.
Hong Kong and Macau relations are local affairs under Beijing’s “one country, two systems” framework, and merging the TAO and HKMAO would send out the message that Beijing is “localizing” the “Taiwan problem,” Kou said.
Merging the two offices would be a huge change, said Chang Wu-yueh (張五岳), an associate professor in Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of China Studies.
It would mean nominally integrating Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, he said, adding that China’s intention of including Taiwan under the “one country, two systems” framework is clear.
There are differences between Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) interpretations of the “one country, two systems” framework proposed by the latter, Chang said.
Xi’s “one country, two systems” framework appears to represent a different idea, Chang said.
Xi’s framework emphasizes that the two sides should each mind their own business, that China is to share the fruits of its development with Taiwanese and that there should be a “spiritual agreement” between the two, Chang said.
Whether the offices’ rumored merger would benefit China’s fight against Taiwanese independence and Hong Kong independence campaigners is “a very secondary question.”
The two situations are not alike, Chang said, adding, for example, that many pro-Hong Kong independence campaigners do not believe that the movement could succeed.
To Beijing, Hong Kong and Macau have “already been unified,” while Taiwan is “yet to be unified” with China, making the problem altogether different, Chang said.
Lau Siu-kai (劉兆佳), a former head of Hong Kong’s Central Policy Unit advisory body to the chief executive, said that according to his knowledge, China is indeed planning to merge the two agencies.
Asked whether “abolishing” the TAO could be part of a plan to belittle Taiwan, Lau said Beijing has always seen issues related to Taiwan and Hong Kong in the same light — as local affairs.
Furthermore, to Beijing, the TAO and HKMAO are only small agencies, Lau said.
The real reason behind the mergers and integration of government agencies is likely that the Chinese Communist Party wants to strengthen the party’s leadership and improve its governing ability, Lau said.
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