HK-Taiwan ties solid regardless of poll outcome

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong-Taiwan relations will continue to improve regardless of the outcome of next week's presidential election on the island, says the new director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong.

James Chu Shi, who began work on January 1, said ties between the city and Taiwan would only strengthen following the upgrading of the name of Taiwan's main office in the city and Hong Kong's establishment of an economic, trade and cultural office in Taiwan last year.

Chu's office, formerly known as Chung Hwa Travel Service, was renamed in July.

'The co-operation between the two places is institutionalised and has reached a point of no return. So no matter who is going to win the election on January 14, Hong Kong-Taiwan relations can only progress in a positive direction,' said Chu at his first media briefing. 'However, it is hard to predict how the cross-strait relations will be affected by the result of the poll.'

With nine days to go before the election, opinion polls show President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang party - who is seeking a second term - with a narrow lead over Dr Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, and far ahead of James Soong Chu-yu of the People First Party.

It is widely believed that cross-strait stability could suffer if Tsai is elected.

Hong Kong's office in Taipei, which is intended to foster long-term co-operation, opened in December.

Chu said he would focus on economic co-operation between Hong Kong and Taiwan, and says securing visa-free access to Hong Kong for Taiwanese travellers is among his top priorities.

'Hong Kong is the second most visited place among Taiwanese tourists even though more than 100 countries have waived visa requirement for our travellers,' said Chu.

After the British government gave Taiwanese travellers visa-free access in the spring of 2009, the number of Taiwanese visitors to Britain almost doubled that year.

Asked if he would arrange a visit for Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen or other senior officials, Chu replied: 'As long as it can foster Taiwan-Hong Kong ties, the office will try its best to arrange [visits for the Hong Kong government].'