21 October 2016
As Taiwan's new government has been ambiguous on the 'One China' policy, Beijing has been stepping up pressure against Taipei and also forcing Hong Kong into the battle. Photo: Reuters
As Taiwan's new government has been ambiguous on the 'One China' policy, Beijing has been stepping up pressure against Taipei and also forcing Hong Kong into the battle. Photo: Reuters

How Hong Kong is getting sucked into Beijing’s Taiwan battle

As China seeks to tighten its grip over Hong Kong, it seems nothing is safe when it comes to the city’s powers and decision-making rights.

After chipping away at Hong Kong’s autonomy in areas such as university appointments and legislative council election rules, Beijing now wants to control even our visa policies.

The “One Country Two Systems” principle is really proving to be something of a joke.

Well, what else can we say as we learn that a prominent Taiwanese politician has been barred from making a trip to Hong Kong, apparently due to instructions from Beijing.  

On Monday, Yang Weichung, a former spokesperson of Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT), revealed that he was denied a Hong Kong visa, rendering him unable to attend a attend a cross-border forum.

Yang wrote in a Facebook post that he was scheduled to speak at the forum in Hong Kong Wednesday and that he had bought plane tickets.

However, the organizer — an entity called CS Culture Foundation — informed him Tuesday that Beijing decided to deny him a visa, he wrote.

And what was the reason given?

Well, it is because Yang is a member of the Committee of Illegal Party Asset Settlement, a Taiwan panel responsible for investigating assets owned by the pro-China KMT.

As the visa was denied on the orders of Beijing, it raises a question over Hong Kong’s autonomy, he pointed out. 

“What happened to Hong Kong’s self-rule and a high degree of autonomy?” Yang wrote.

Yang had been a KMT veteran but was expelled from the party this year on charges that he vilified the pro-mainland entity.

KMT was defeated in Taiwan’s presidential election in January this year, with independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) returning to power.

Following the KMT defeat, Yang aired some differences over the party’s future.

Later he joined a panel to investigate the KMT’s assets, prompting Beijing to cast him as being no longer a friend of China.

The denial of the Hong Kong visa now should be seen against that background.

CS Culture Foundation has confirmed that visas were denied to some Taiwan invitees following the intervention of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong.

Yang was among several Taiwanese politicians cutting across party lines that had been invited for the event aimed at promoting ties between Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

Apart from Yang, people linked with DPP were also said to have been barred from making the trip.

Susie Chiang, chairwoman of CS Culture Foundation, was quoted by media as saying that she heard that the Taiwan Affairs Office of China’s State Council ordered that all officials and lawmakers representing DPP be banned from visiting Hong Kong.

Well, this is a clear example of how Beijing is putting political considerations above everything when it comes to exchanges between Taiwan and the mainland and Hong Kong.

As Taiwan’s new president, Tsai Ing-wen, has refused to publicly acknowledge the “One China” principle, China’s leaders are taking a hard line approach toward the island.

And pressure is being put on Hong Kong authorities to follow the same line. 

Earlier this month, a Taiwan lawmaker who was passing through Hong Kong was forced to spend a night at the airport as he was refused a transit visa.

The poor man had to choice but to sleep in a chair before boarding a flight to Taiwan the next morning.

Hong Kong is being drawn into the political battles being waged by Beijing against Taipei’s new government, putting at risk Hong Kong’s own interests.

Beijing seems to be in a hurry to force Taiwan back to the “One China” policy, but Tsai, who won a landslide victory in the island’s presidential election, is in no mood for compromise.

Amid this situation, Hong Kong is being made to pay a price as the city gets sucked into the mainland’s political games.

As for Beijing’s proxies here, they are not too perturbed as they believe a tight visa policy will help prevent Taiwan activists from interacting with independence-leaning Hong Kong youngsters.

The Hong Kong government said last week that it “does not welcome activists who pursue the notion of Taiwan independence to come to Hong Kong to campaign for Hong Kong political organizations”.

It’s a pity that short-sighted political considerations are being given more importance than the long-term objective of more exchanges with Taiwan. 

Taiwan and Hong Kong people are keen on stronger ties between the two sides, regardless of the political issues that Beijing may have with Taipei.

Ignoring people’s wishes, the Hong Kong government is toeing Beijing’s line and tightening the visa policy.   

This will lead to Hong Kong losing its uniqueness as a bridge between Beijing and Taipei.

As for Beijing, it should bear in mind that banning Taiwan officials from visiting Hong Kong will not help in resolving the political deadlock across the Taiwan Strait.

Instead, it will widen the trust deficit between the two sides, pushing Taiwan further away from China.

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EJ Insight writer

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