My Take

When it comes to dealing with Beijing, Hong Kong can learn from Taiwan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 April, 2015, 12:41am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 April, 2015, 12:41am

Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou yesterday challenged an opposition leader on how she intends to maintain peaceful ties with Beijing. He asked Dr Tsai Ing-wen, who leads the Democratic Progressive Party, what she would do to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait.

A good question, and indeed a deep existential one! Short of a permanent armed stand-off that neither side wants, the future of Taiwan depends on a workable answer to that question.

That is exactly the kind of question we should also ask our own pan-democratic leaders: how do you plan to deal with the mainland besides thumbing your nose at Beijing? No man is an island. As it is with people, so it is with countries and territories. Simple geography means the mainland will always be a preponderant influence in our affairs. So long as the pan-dems fail to produce a credible leader who has an answer to dealing with Beijing, practical Hongkongers have every reason not to take them seriously.

So far, not only have they not bothered with developing such a leadership, they have gone in the opposite direction. The traditional camp has gone all out in its ideology against the Chinese Communist Party. This is often done under the guise of spreading democracy on the mainland. The younger camp, represented by student leaders such as those from Scholarism and the beleaguered Federation of Students, wants a Hong Kong autonomous enough that we could tell Beijing to mind its own business. Both camps essentially give Beijing the finger. But the more we tell Beijing off, the more it will interfere. That is why we are in a sorry state with electoral reforms. The only way is to develop a workable internal relationship between the city and Beijing. In this, we can also learn from Taiwan.

Both the island and Beijing agree on "one China", but they gloss over differences in the way each side interprets what "China" means. That is the essence of diplomacy. We will have to do the same with "one country, two systems". Beijing stresses one country; we prefer to focus on two systems. Both sides may interpret it differently and still reach a workable, tacit understanding.

Unfortunately, we have no politicians clever or talented enough to do that.