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One symposium, two interpretations
Paul Lin
9/13/2003



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Following my participation in the recent "Hong Kong Under One Country, Two Systems" symposium organized by Taiwan Advocates in Taipei, I continued on to Hong Kong. The symposium had actually stirred up a storm there, which still hasn't subsided. In Hong Kong, the symposium was distorted differently from the way it was distorted in Taipei, but with the same results.

The lectures given by two distinguished guests from the US and Japan and the analyses by Legislative Council (Legco) members Emily Lau and James To and other experts and scholars from Hong Kong of the territory's Basic Law and the "one country, two systems" model, the destructive influence of Article 23 in the Basic Law on the territory's freedom, human rights and legal system, and the transformation of Hong Kong's social culture following its return to China, were never reported by certain media.

These media only reported the interaction between President Chen Shui-bian and former president Lee Teng-hui, who showed up at the symposium at the same time. They also kept harping on the issue with the secret National Security Bureau accounts. Nor did the reports on the second day of the symposium regarding Hong Kong's economic situation lead to any interest among from these media.

At a round table meeting, some participants from Hong Kong countered criticism from the symposium organizers by saying that as Hong Kong has no choice, they can only pin their hopes on the "one country, two systems" model. This was widely reported by these media as if they had they stumbled over a great scoop -- it seemed the symposium had turned into a meeting in praise of the "one country, two systems" model.

The situation in Hong Kong, however, was the exact opposite. People close to China launched "revolutionary criticism" against the two Legco members. Every kind of scary political epithet flew through the air, stopping just short of getting the pair thrown in jail. The pretext was that the two had pushed support for Taiwan's independence to the fore with the purpose of promoting Hong Kong independence. Their critics demanded that a national security law be rapidly promulgated so that sanctions could be taken against them.

The deputy director of the China Central Government Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Liaison Office and China's mouthpieces issued statements, while some of the supporters of the July 1 demonstrations urried to distance themselves from these statements. Reprimands were also heard from within democratic ranks. Lau and To were forced to call a press conference to defend themselves.

Even though Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee said that the two were not involved in separatist activities, one Legco member still went to the police station to report Lau and request that her visit to Taipei to support Taiwan's independence be dealt with.

The above situation demonstrates that even though Taiwan and Hong Kong want to make the "one country, two systems" model look good, they offer two completely different interpretations of the symposium in order to serve their own political needs.

In Hong Kong, individuals close to China need to extract themselves from their passivity during the July 1 demonstration. The best way to do this is to claim that the demonstration was initiated by external forces. This would prove their own great perspicacity. It would also whip up nationalist sentiment and could even become an excuse to call for military suppression of such demonstrations.

In Taiwan, "one China" is a dead-end street for people close to the Chinese Communist Party. They therefore need to spruce up the "one country, two systems" model to be able to make the Taiwanese public accept the unification ideology. They therefore took things out of context and distorted them, while keeping the true facts of the symposium from becoming generally known. The problem remains that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan, two days after the symposium was concluded, said that the KMT does not accept the "one country, two systems" model.

This being so, why don't the media close to the KMT keep in line with Lien? Have the media been co-opted by China, or is Lien being less than honest?

The reason given by the participants from Hong Kong for criticizing the symposium for taking advantage of the 500,000-strong demonstration on July 1 to create an issue for Taiwan's upcoming presidential election was that there never has been any interest in Taiwan regarding how the "one country, two systems" model works in Hong Kong.

Such criticism doesn't hold water. When I visited Taiwan in March, I learned that this symposium was planned for the eve of the sixth anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China, and that it was postponed only because of concerns over SARS.

It was also in a discussion regarding the "one country, two systems" model with Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Chen Ming-tong that I asked why Hong Kong's failure couldn't be used to attack China's unification war. Chen's reply was that things were already difficult enough for Hong Kong residents, and he didn't want to dig further in the wound.

Over the years, I have often commented on the "one country, two systems" model in Hong Kong. This clarifies the fact that Taiwan does care about Hong Kong's fate under that system and that it is not taking advantage of the 500,000-strong demonstration to produce an issue for the upcoming presidential election.

We can't blame some of the Hong Kong participants in the symposium for having this mistaken understanding of Taiwan (that the country doesn't care about the fate of Hong Kong under the "one country, two systems" model). Such beliefs are the result of having only been in touch with a certain kind of Taiwanese media -- the kind which need to avoid the problems surrounding the "one country, two systems" model in Hong Kong in order to keep the Taiwanese public from losing faith in the "one China" concept.

*Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.

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