Beijing plans to let Hong Kong play a more active role in united front work towards Taiwan through the establishment of a Hong Kong chapter of a group that aims to promote cross-strait ties, two experts familiar with the relationship across the Taiwan Strait said. The Hong Kong chapter of the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification was set up yesterday, nearly five years after one in Macau was established. The Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, the mainland's semi-official agency that handles cross-strait relations, set up an office in Macau in 2002. It is the association's sole branch outside the mainland. Veteran China-watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the fact the council's Hong Kong chapter had been set up much later than the Macau branch showed Beijing had not been comfortable with Hong Kong forging close ties with Taiwan several years ago. Founded in Beijing in 1988, the council is a united front group that seeks to promote cross-strait ties and reunification. It has set up chapters around the world - 130 branches in more than 80 countries. 'Both Hong Kong and Taiwan are capitalistic societies,' Mr Lau said. 'Beijing didn't want Hong Kong to get too close to Taiwan when Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian wielded the power. Beijing has been more at ease to allow Macau, which is closer to Beijing in ideology, to forge ties with Taiwan. 'Beijing has become more comfortable in letting Hong Kong step up ties with Taiwan since Ma Ying-jeou was elected president last year.' Timothy Wong Ka-ying, associate director of the Chinese University's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, said Beijing hoped Hong Kong would play a greater role in united front work towards Taiwan, particularly involving Taiwanese living in Hong Kong, in view of improvements in the cross-strait relationship. 'I think Beijing plans to better co-ordinate the united front work towards Taiwanese staying in Hong Kong through the establishment of the council's Hong Kong chapter,' Professor Wong said.