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Home > East Asia > 

China wants to use it HK formula
Paul Lin
7/1/2005

Hong Kong commentators are experiencing a sense of deja vu with the current bout of "China fever" brought about by the visits Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong made to China. The Chinese government has reapplied the Hong Kong model to tackle the Taiwan issue.

Regardless of what people are calling the visits, they were a kind of pilgrimage. When China publicly indicated its intention to take over Hong Kong in 1982, it invited wealthy businesspeople and celebrities in the territory to make a "pilgrimage" to China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reassured them that China would definitely resume sovereignty over Hong Kong.

Once these people returned home from China, they were eager to show other residents of Hong Kong that they were confident of Beijing's reassurances. These people became a mouthpiece for China, but nonetheless started quietly selling off their Hong Kong stocks, forcing Beijing to invest heavily in Hong Kong to keep the people there happy.

Lien shamelessly said that his trip to China was to "ally with the CCP to resist Taiwan [independence]." It doesn't matter what Lien was opposed to, the act of allying himself with the CCP was wrong. In Soong's impassioned speech upon his arrival in Xian, his firm stance against "Taiwan's independence," "two Chinas," "one China, one Taiwan" and the "special state-to-state" model, he seemed to open his heart to the CCP even more than Lien did.

The promises China has made to Hong Kong were eventually torn up after they had served their purpose. In order to sow dissension in Hong Kong, the CCP paid lip service to many issues, such as "no change within 50 years" and "one country, two systems with a high level of autonomy," but it later ignored these promises.

Zhao Ziyang, China's premier at the time, asked reporters from Hong Kong what they had to be afraid of, and gave students of the Chinese University of Hong Kong an open letter promising democratic rule in Hong Kong, but ultimately he was not even able to protect himself.

Ahead of Lien's and Soong's departure there was talk of China presenting Taiwan with gifts. Some Taiwanese had high expectations, but in the end Soong's mention of "the Republic of China" was edited out of news reports, China did not agree to withdraw its ballistic missiles, Taiwan was not permitted to join the World Health Assembly, and its reporters were denied media credentials.

Lien and Soong's cooperation with Beijing to work against Taiwan does not pave the way toward recovering our sovereignty and dignity. Even China's offer to allow tax-free imports of fruits from Taiwan will evaporate as soon as is has obtained the agricultural technology it desires. That China is using pandas as a tool in its "united front" strategy shows the bestial nature hidden behind its fine exterior.

China used its deceptive "united front" strategy to take over Hong Kong and make it a special administrative region. Taiwan could similarly become a special administrative region, but apparently quite a number of people continue to believe that Lien's and Soong's trips did not set Taiwan on its way to becoming a local government of China, or downgrading Taiwan to a status to that of Hong Kong.

In the face of China's "united front" strategy to polarize Hong Kong's public opinion, as opposed to the UK's policy of taking a democratic route to win Hong Kongers' hearts, a vigorous dispute was stirred up between China and the UK.

The governor of Hong Kong under British rule had a firm hold on public power, and would replace any government officials who were individually close to the Chinese government. In this way, the governor was able to prevent the government from being hamstrung by China-friendly officials.

Taiwan's current situation is different from that of Hong Kong before it reverted to China. To begin with, Lien and Soong are both chairmen of political parties, who are much more influential than the Hong Kong celebrities or business tycoons China wooed in the past.

Second, except for a few pro-China newspapers that did not enjoy a large readership, most media outlets in Hong Kong were anti-Communist and therefore the people of Hong Kong were united against reversion to China. However, Taiwan's media is utilizing the recent bout of "China fever" to glorify China's autocratic regime and give Lien and Soong credit for their tours of China. This has misled people in Taiwan. It is clear that Taiwan has it own strategic advantages, but the predicament it is facing is harsher than Hong Kong's.

Since the Democratic Progressive Party is inexperienced in dealing with China's "united front" strategy, it seems to have become confused. There are three things we can do to change the current situation:

First, enhance the psychological preparedness of the people. As an open-minded president, Chen Shui-bian did not reject Lien's and Soong's pilgrimages to Beijing, but instead praised Lien for acting like a loyal opposition leader.

Although Chen demonstrated how tolerant and receptive a democratic society like Taiwan's is, he should be cautious about what he says at this moment when some of the media outlets are particularly keen on dividing the nation. When showing tolerance, Chen also has to be critical of any treacherous acts by opposition leaders; otherwise, his remarks might easily be misinterpreted as approval and cause confusion.

Second, establish a better understanding of China. Taiwan's media has a polarized approach to reporting about China. The pro-China media paints a rosy picture, while the pro-independence media has long been indifferent to anything from China, and their reports about its communist regime are infrequent, insubstantial and superficial.

Therefore, people lack resistance to "China fever" and are easily mesmerized by the short-term benefits offered by Beijing. Thus, the pro-independence media must strengthen its endeavors in this regard. The content of school textbooks should also be revised accordingly.

In short, when disclosing the nature of China's dictatorial regime, we should also seek to win the hearts and minds of the Chinese people.

Third, internationalize the Taiwan issue. The history of Taiwan and the strategic values that it represents have made the cross-strait dilemma not only a dispute between Taipei and Beijing or between the KMT and CCP, but also an issue of international importance.

The US certainly hopes that both sides can resume dialogue and make efforts to ease tensions, but it will not tolerate an authoritarian regime such as Beijing attempting to annex a democratic Taiwan, thereby increasing the scope of dictatorial forces all over the globe. Democracies in Europe and in Asia, such as Japan and India, are all reluctant to see the expansion of autocratic China, particularly in the military field. Therefore, Taiwan has to do whatever it can to make the international community aware of China's expansionist intentions.

The CCP, the KMT and the PFP are now complacent about their mutual cooperation. They are now most likely to make a slip-up. Anybody who truly loves or cares about Taiwan has to keep an eye on their actions and await an opportunity to turn the tables on them.

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.



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