【明報專訊】HAN Kuo-yu, mayor of Kaohsiung, made a visit to Hong Kong, Macao, Shenzhen and Xiamen spanning seven days and six nights last week, provoking a whirlwind of emotions across the Taiwan Strait. While he has succeeded in clinching a deal on agricultural products worth more than five billion New Taiwan Dollars, he has also attracted a lot of controversies. On the one hand, the Kuomintang, in view of his huge popularity, is reported to be considering "drafting" him to run in the 2020 presidential election. On the other hand, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the green camp have repeatedly criticised his visit for possibly "a betrayal of Taiwan".
It should be said that Han does have political sensitivity. On his first trip since taking office, he visited Singapore and Malaysia, by doing so chiming in with the Taiwanese government's new Southward policy and preventing touching on the sensitive issue of cross-strait relations. His visit to Hong Kong, Macao and the mainland this time was mainly about promoting Kaohsiung's fishery and agricultural products, and he avoided commenting on "One country, two systems" in Hong Kong and Macao. He also struck a low profile and chose not to respond to criticism from some pan-democrats. However, his high-profile visits to Beijing's liaison offices in Hong Kong and Macao and meeting with Liu Jieyi, Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office, can easily be labelled as an endorsement of "One country, two systems".
To be frank, Taiwanese politicians visiting Hong Kong, Macao and the mainland cannot possibly avoid contacting mainland agencies responsible for Taiwan. It is not a secret that liaison offices in Hong Kong and Macao have departments tasked with handling matters concerning Taiwan. Since the announcement of Qian Qichen's seven principles in 1995, relations between Taiwan and Hong Kong have naturally become an integral part of cross-strait relations. The Hong Kong government cannot possibly have an independent policy towards Taiwan that is different from that of the Beijing authorities. The DPP government should know this very well.
Therefore, Han's visits to the liaison offices are not so much a creative break with precedent as the manifestation of a new measure for the mainland to exert pressure on Taiwan. Han's saying that "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" might not have been just a way to sidestep the question, but also reflected his sense of helplessness. It is worth our attention whether heads of Taiwan district governments visiting Hong Kong in the future will all have a visit to the liaison office as part of the itinerary and whether the Taiwanese government will ban these politicians from setting foot in Hong Kong. If politicians from the DPP can meet with mainland officials tasked with Taiwan affairs or enter the liaison offices in Hong Kong or Macao, on what grounds can they criticise Han for betraying Taiwan?
The high profile struck by the DPP government in Taiwan in its criticism of Han for betraying Taiwan carries deeper considerations for elections. In fact, both Han and everyone know that the DPP has long regarded him as a virtual opponent in the 2020 presidential election.
It is true that the implementation of "One country, two systems" in Hong Kong has run into a lot of difficulties. Opinion differs as to what the destablisation, transformation and distortion of "One country, two systems" mean. Neither Beijing's nor Washington's standards can be solely relied on for the judgement of this matter. At the moment no one knows how the "One country, two systems" plan for Taiwan, proposed by Xi Jinping, will be different from that for Hong Kong. But the Taiwanese people will make a choice wisely. How the cross-strait relations will go will hardly depend on Hong Kong, but Taiwan's independence would undoubtedly put Hong Kong in trouble. We believe that Hong Kong people know this very well.
clinch : to succeed in achieving or winning sth
precedent : the way that things have always been done
sidestep sth : to avoid answering a question or dealing with a problem