Donald Tsang

Taiwan seeking to lure Tsang for island visit

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am


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Taiwan's office in Hong Kong yesterday made what it called a 'goodwill gesture' to Donald Tsang Yam-kuen for an official visit before the end of his term. But the Chief Executive's Office said he had no such plan.

James Chu Shi, the new director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong, said it would 'try its best' to cater to Tsang's needs.

'We have not officially invited Tsang to visit Taiwan, but we are issuing goodwill gestures,' Chu said yesterday.

'We will try our best to ensure the security and dignity of the visit. I am sure [it] could yield a fruitful outcome.'

His remarks came after the Chief Executive's Office said Tsang (pictured) had no plan at this stage to visit Taiwan. That followed a Taiwanese newspaper report suggesting he could visit the island in May.

The report quoted Hong Kong officials in Taipei saying Tsang could officiate at the opening of the city's Economic, Trade and Cultural Office there.

Tsang's term ends on June 30.

The Hong Kong office in Taipei, headed by John Leung, started operating in December. The formal opening is expected within months.

A Hong Kong government source said the United Daily News report was positive but many details needed clarifying for Tsang to visit.

Another person familiar with the situation said Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah could be the highest-ranking official to attend the opening ceremony. The minister, also the honorary chairman of the Hong Kong-Taiwan Economic and Cultural and Promotion Council, visited the island in 2010.

Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said a visit by the chief executive would bring about a big improvement in co-operation between the two economies.

'Hong Kong-Taiwan relations have been worse than cross-strait relations,' said Lau, citing frequent exchanges between mainland officials and Taiwan. 'As two places demonstrating 'one country, two systems', it would be weird for neither of the city's first two chief executives to visit Taiwan. A visit could lay the ground for further exchanges between the two places.'

Lau said the obstacles might stem from the chief executive's personal concerns.

'He could be lacking political courage, worrying about protocol and etiquette issues,' he said.

Chen Yunlin, chairman of Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, visited Taiwan in 2010, the highest-ranking mainland official to do so. He met Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou during his trip.

With his status as the chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Donald Tsang's ranking in the Chinese political hierarchy is higher than that of governors of provinces, and ministers.

Hong Kong will soon grant travellers from Taiwan free online visas following a visit by Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen to Taiwan last week.