I was invited by the Hong Kong and Macau Association of Taiwan to visit Taipei to observe the historic presidential election campaign. The visit, from March 14-17, coincided with heightened hostilities between China and Taiwan as the Chinese authorities stepped up military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. When I arrived in Taipei, I found a very calm city where the people were not in any way intimidated by the Chinese war games. Neither did I find the election fever which gripped Taipei during the elections of the city mayor and the provisional governor in 1994. Instead I found a city preparing eagerly for the momentous election on March 23, the first ever presidential election to be held by Chinese people in more than 4,000 years of their history. During one of the election rallies, a speaker told the audience that after March 23, Westerners would no longer be able to say that Chinese people are not fit for democracy. By Taiwanese standards, the election rallies were not well attended, attracting 2,000 to 3,000 people. I was told the reason for the low turnout was that many people expected President Lee Teng-hui to win, thus there was no excitement or suspense. Beijing's military exercises are designed to dissuade voters from supporting Mr Lee, who has all along been the front-runner. The Taiwanese people I met said such efforts were totally counter-productive because they forced Mr Lee to stand firm against the aggression and thus succeeded in rallying more people around him. Many now expect him to be re-elected by a big majority. The Taiwanese authorities are aware of Hong Kong people's concern about developments in Taiwan because of its ramifications for the colony. However the secretary-general of the Straits Exchange Foundation, Chiao Jen-ho, said Taiwan would not accept unification with China under 'one country, two systems', thus the Hong Kong experience is quite irrelevant for Taiwan. The Straits Exchange Foundation is a quasi-government body responsible for negotiating with the Chinese authorities. Mr Chiao's remark should put to rest the wishful thinking that Hong Kong can play the Taiwan card - China will not treat Hong Kong too harshly because it wants to use the Hong Kong model to entice Taiwan. Mr Chiao said China and Taiwan should be unified under one system. On March 16, thousands of pro-independence supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took to the streets to protest against unification. In spite of that, I failed to detect a rising appetite for independence. Even the DPP secretary general, Chiou I-jen, sounded cautious and conciliatory. While insisting that independence is the DPP's objective, Mr Chiou said the party would not be so irresponsible as to say that it wanted to secure independence now because that would be highly provocative to Beijing. Mr Chiou said the DPP supported Mr Lee's response to the threats from the mainland. In my meetings with Mr Chiou and with the chairman of the executive yuan's Mainland Affairs Council, Chang King-yuh, I reminded them of Taiwan's moral obligation for the tens of thousands of Hong Kong people who are closely associated with and have worked for the Taiwanese regime. These people may become targets of the Chinese Communists after the change of sovereignty in July 1997. I urged them to consider treating these people sympathetically by giving them the right of abode in Taiwan. We also discussed the question of Taiwan offering assistance to other Hong Kong people should they become victims of political persecution. While I appreciate this is a sensitive subject, I hope it will stay on Taiwan's agenda.