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Home > East Asia > 

Hong Kong, Tibet Serve as Warning for Taiwan
Paul Lin
7/29/2006

July 1 marks the anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as well as the anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese control. Every year, this day is given to Hong Kong citizens as a holiday so they can "celebrate," but in 2003 about 1 million people used the day to demonstrate for democracy. Now, it has become a day for crowds of Hong Kongers to disregard the political climate in their city and demand democracy.

As July 1 neared this year, the Chinese government dispatched Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Jia Qinglin to Hong Kong. Jia announced 15 economic incentives for Hong Kong to reduce public interest in taking to the streets.

Nevertheless, 50,000 people still turned out to demonstrate on the afternoon of July 1, compared with 40,000 to 50,000 for the anniversary celebrations that were held in the morning.

In attendance at the democracy march was Yu Jie, one of China's most prominent political dissident authors, wearing a T-shirt printed with a photo of Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights activist from Shandong Province who was recently arrested. Yu believes that achieving universal suffrage in Hong Kong will be a difficult task, because any leaders elected by the people would surely be disliked by Beijing.

Furthermore, if Hong Kong were to gain suffrage, would other regions in China demand the right to vote as well?

In April, Xu Chongde, an authority on Hong Kong's Basic Law, said: "If you can assure to me today that those elected will be patriots, then I'd advocate universal suffrage."

The way the day's events were treated by Hong Kong's newspapers was interesting.

Three CCP papers ran stories about the celebrations on the front page, while four independent papers used their front page to report on the democracy demonstrations. Two of these covered the surprise appearance at the demonstrations of former chief secretary Anson Chan. Two other papers with high circulation ran headlines that were damaging to Chan and one paper avoided the issue, running World Cup coverage instead.

Recently, Beijing was angered when Richard Li, the second son of tycoon Li Ka-shing, tried to sell PCCW Limited to foreign financial groups. China accused him of forgetting the generosity it had shown him, as it had provided Li with financial support at the time of the firm's purchase, and China's state-owned ChinaNet had also become a shareholder.

It accused him of trying to profit from the preferential treatment the CCP had shown him, just as Chang Jung-fa, chairman of the Evergreen Group, had done. It appears that the CCP doesn't give any thought to its "one country, two systems" policy, even on economic matters.

Beijing has also denied the Dalai Lama's request that Tibet be granted the same degree of political autonomy as Hong Kong, and has stepped up criticism of him. This is no doubt related to the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

While the pro-Chinese media in Hong Kong and Taiwan have been promoting the trip to Tibet as an incredible, scenic journey to the top of the world, foreign observers have expressed concerned about the environmental impact. Tibetans, meanwhile, are worried that with the influx of Chinese, they will lose their unique culture and religion.

The U.S. and European countries have been able to profit from Chinese tourists. But will the disadvantaged Tibetan people avoid assimilation and preserve their Shangri-la?

Look at Hong Kong and Tibet, then think about Taiwan.

Paul Lin is a commentator based in Taipei.

Translated by Marc Langer



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