Beijing’s Taiwan initiative in danger of backfiring, says former envoy

  • Susie Chiang Su-hui says Beijing’s picking and choosing ‘is of no use’
  • Hong Kong visits by high-profile Taiwanese to culture forum stymied by visas
PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2018, 8:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2018, 9:31pm

Beijing’s efforts to allow Taiwanese greater access to opportunities on mainland China are in danger of backfiring, according to Taiwan’s former envoy to Hong Kong.

Susie Chiang Su-hui, honorary chairwoman of the Taiwan Business Association in Hong Kong, said that if Beijing continued to pick and choose applicants based on their political affiliations and squeezed out those who do not suit Beijing, the measures would be self-defeating.

“The government has spent lots of money, which in Taiwanese eyes is of no use and may even backfire,” Chiang said.

In February, Beijing introduced measures it said were designed to give Taiwanese companies and individuals more and easier access to the mainland.

A package of 31 items relating to business matters, social and employment issues was introduced. Item 24 said: “Taiwan organisations that work for cross-strait exchanges can apply to set up foundations.”

Beijing unveils measures giving Taiwanese ‘equal rights’ on mainland

Chiang applied to set up a foundation on the mainland in September, but the application did not succeed because there was no guidance on how the measures should work, she said.

“How can Beijing release policies that are actually not ready? I am not optimistic that the details would come out in a short time,” Chiang said.

Beijing, which regards self-governing Taiwan as a breakaway province to be taken back by force, if necessary, has taken a series of tough moves aimed at the administration of the island’s pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen, including military drills and courting the island’s diplomatic allies. Measures such as giving Taiwanese on the mainland some benefits are part of this effort.

In Hong Kong, Chiang set up the CS Culture Foundation in 2002, which organised more than 40 forums and 10 lectures on cross-strait topics with speakers from the mainland, the island’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), with its strong ties to Beijing.

Chiang said the forum was forced to close because speakers from Taiwan found it hard to get a visa for Hong Kong, where, she said, there is greater freedom of speech than the mainland.

“Almost all the DPP officials were not allowed to come to Hong Kong since Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwanese president in May 2016,” Chiang said. “At the end of that year, even people with no political affiliations but who hold moderate views regarding the DPP were refused permission to come.”

Most recently, Sean Chen, a former premier of Taiwan and a member of the KMT, was only permitted a visa to enter Hong Kong at the last minute at Hong Kong’s airport, according to Chiang.

Chen was invited to address the China-US trade war and its effects on Taiwan at the forum last Friday.

“My forum was intended to freely discuss topics relating to Taiwan, but what’s the use of it if only pro-Beijing speakers can be heard?” said Chiang, who pointed out that DPP party members could enter Hong Kong, even during Chen Shui-bian’s troubled administration.

Chen Shui-bian was Taiwanese president from 2000 to 2008 and an advocate of Taiwanese independence.

The free discussion of Taiwanese politics could let pro-independence forces know that even under the Communist Party’s rule, Hong Kong had not been changed, said Chiang.

“But restricting the visas based on people’s political views can just make things worse. It would let Taiwanese fear Beijing more,” Chiang said.

In August 2016, the visas of three Taiwanese political figures who were invited to attend a CS forum were denied at the last minute because of their links to the DPP.

One of the scheduled speakers was former KMT spokesman Yang Wei-chung, who said he was denied a visa although it had been approved.