Taiwan's former de facto envoy to Hong Kong has expressed regret over what he calls a deadlock in the island's relations with the Hong Kong government over the past decade. Cheng An-kuo said if Beijing could move further in terms of freedom and democracy it would adopt a more liberal approach towards Hong Kong's aspirations for democracy. The former Chung Hwa Travel Service general manager was speaking in an RTHK special series on the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule. The government broadcaster came under fire in 1999 after giving air time to Mr Cheng to explain the claim by Taiwan's then-president, Lee Teng-hui, that the island was a state separate from the mainland. Mr Cheng, who visited Hong Kong two months ago, said yesterday he had been impressed by the scene in Causeway Bay - a mix of shoppers, activists pushing for democracy and Falun Gong promotions. 'One can feel that Hong Kong is truly different from the mainland, the so-called one country, two systems.' Although critics still complained about the slow pace of democracy, many were less worried about the handover than they were 10 years ago, Mr Cheng said. He noted that Taiwan's trade with Hong Kong had increased 30 per cent over the past decade to US$30 billion a year. Visitor numbers from both sides had also significantly increased. 'But it's regrettable that relations between Taiwan and Hong Kong apparently remain deadlocked.' He said Hong Kong was a special place within the policy framework of Beijing and Taipei. He believed higher-level exchanges and closer official ties between Hong Kong and Taiwan would be mutually beneficial.