HK no longer cross-straits go-between: Taiwan culture chief

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 7:47pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 9:24pm

Hong Kong should focus on its own relationship with Beijing rather than continuing to act as the cross-strait intermediary between the mainland and Taiwan, the island’s culture minister said on Monday.

Lung Ying-tai spoke as she ended her six-day visit to the city that she once called home.

“In terms of Hong Kong’s role as an intermediary in cross-strait interactions, in past decades [the city] was always important and indispensable. But since direct cross-strait flights [were introduced], the city’s role has dwindled. Now there are fewer Cathay Pacific flights from Hong Kong to Taipei.

”A rather big challenge for Hong Kong now is how to re-position its relations with Beijing,” Lung said.

She noted the awakening of Hongkongers’ sense of their own civil society. Protests, such as the one against the Queen's Pier demolition, she said, showed how locals were trying to preserve their own culture.

On this trip, she said she had engaged only in cultural activities and visits, and paid no “secret” visits to local or mainland officials. She thanked the local government for its assistance and for “coping with my ministerial visit”.

Relations have come a long way. In 2005, Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou’s application for a Hong Kong visa was rejected. Today Ma is Taiwan’s president.

Commenting on recent protests in Taipei about mainland-based businesses taking over the media sector, Lung said it was a global problem that was not unique to Taiwan. 

With mainland tourism to Taiwan increasing, Lung said she was aware anti-mainlander incidents in Hong Kong, citing a video clip showing a quarrel about mainlanders eating on board a train.

She said in Taiwan when she heard young people complaining about noisy mainlanders she told that them that it wasn't too long ago, maybe 30 years, that Taiwainese people weren't any more refined in their behaviour.

She called on Hongkongers to be tolerant towards new immigrants from the mainland.

Lung – a best-selling author and a highly regarded former University of Hong Kong scholar before agreeing to head up the Taiwanese culture department – said she would not write books while serving in government, adding her positon as culture minister was only a  “temporary job”.

She also said that her trip had given her a better understanding of how the city and Taiwan can work together in cultural enterprises, in particular, on projects like the under-construction West Kowloon Cultural District, which had its counterparts in Taiwan.