Beijing warns on ties in Double Tenth row
CHINA has warned of new difficulties in Sino-British relations following a Hong Kong Government decision not to block a pro-Taiwan group from holding a Double Tenth show in an Urban Council centre yesterday.
A strongly worded statement was issued by the Foreign Ministry just hours after the Chinese Cultural Association (CCA) held celebrations of Taiwan's National Day at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.
Unlike similar events in the past, Taiwan's flag was not seen inside or outside the venue.
Urban Services Department staff made strict security checks on attendees to prevent any photography, recording or videotaping.
The organiser, however, denied there had been pressure from the Hong Kong Government not to hoist the flag.
Cheung Hon-chung, secretary-general of the CCA, said: 'We have to stick to the regulations, and that of course does not mean we suffer from any political pressure.' When asked if it was acceptable to have the National Day celebration without the national flag, John Ni Chang-i, Taiwan's top representative in Hong Kong, said: 'Our national flag exists in our hearts and minds.' He said that no matter what China had said about the banning of Taiwanese celebrations after the handover, no one could change the fact that the Republic of China had existed for 83 years.
Mr Ni pledged that Taiwanese bodies would not retreat from the territory after 1997, and would serve the people in compliance with the laws.
Susie Chiang, director of the Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Centre, said she regretted the event had been politicised.
'It is a cultural activity . . . we don't think it is a Double Tenth celebration, we just like to have a concert and celebration.
'I think it's a free world. In Hong Kong everybody can have their own celebration. We do have our own, that's not a big deal,' she said.
Asked why there was no national flag, Mr Cheung said they were notified of the 'regulations at the very beginning'.
But last Friday, Mr Cheung said at a public function that they would raise the flag inside the Cultural Centre auditorium. They would not raise the flag outside the venue, he said.
He said it was too early to say whether the association would apply for a public venue to celebrate the event next year.
Mainland Foreign Ministry spokesman Chen Jian yesterday claimed the Hong Kong Government's handling of the issue showed it was not sincere in improving Sino-British relations.
He said the Government's insistence on letting 'Taiwan forces hold illegitimate National Day celebrations' on its premises was clearly a violation of Britain's 'one China' policy.
'This is in opposite direction to its repeated wish to improve relations,' Mr Chen said.
'It has seriously hurt the feelings of Chinese people and raises new difficulties to Sino-British relations.
'We hereby express our indignation.
'The British move once again shows that what the British side says does not square with what it does, and that it lacks good will in improving Sino-British relations.
'We demand that the British side honour its commitment in earnest otherwise it shall be held responsible for the grave consequences,' the spokesman said.
A senior locally based Chinese official said whether the pro-Taiwan group put up the flag inside the premises made no difference.
'It's not a legal issue. The Government had banned such activities in the past on political grounds. But now it has allowed them to hold such activities also on political grounds,' the official claimed.
Assistant director of Urban Services (Cultural Services) Chung Ling-hoi said whether the flag was put up or not was a matter for the association.
'It did not ask for permission to hoist any flag inside the auditorium,' an Urban Services Department spokesman added.
'There was no law banning the hoisting of anything, but the department would consider the matter on the grounds of safety and technical viability if they requested so,' she said.
A leading figure of a Taiwan business group, Kein Ting, said after attending the celebration it was unreasonable and regrettable that the Hong Kong Government had meddled in the arrangement of a private gathering.
Mr Ting, chairman of the Hong Kong Taiwan Trade Association, said the organiser could only obey the Government's policy.
He said China's 'high-handed' policy to hit Taiwan would harm China's unification.
In Beijing, a Xinhua (New China News Agency) official said it might not be possible to ban the hoisting of the Taiwan flag inside residential premises after 1997.
Weng Xinqiao, Xinhua's culture and education department head and a Preliminary Working Committee (PWC) member, said: 'Conceptually speaking, it [putting up Taiwan's flag] is against the principle of 'one China'.' He said it was up to the future Special Administrative Region to decide whether putting up the Taiwanese flag would be seen as a breach of the treason law.
Another PWC member, Ng Hong-mun, said the Double Tenth celebration in the future should be renamed as celebrations to mark the 1911 Revolution.