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美國和台灣如何在香港問題上起作用

STEPS IN THE WRONG DIRECTION: HOW TAIWAN AND THE UNITED STATES ARE SETTING HONG KONG BACK

By Tom Plate

April 9, 2004

We need to have a better understanding of what is happening in China, its province Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States. Misunderstandings could well breed serious frictions between East and West that might yield tragic results.

Beijing recently decreed that in effect it is the boss of Hong Kong, not Hong Kong (technically correct) and certainly not the U.S. Senate (incontrovertibly correct). But dissenters in Hong Kong are decrying the bluntness of the decision. Here's the true story:

The Chinese took over as Hong Kong's landlord in 1997. They were given the keys to the city-territory by the British, who had fully occupied and wholly harbored this Southeast Asian jewel for more than 150 years. When Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, London wisely accepted the obvious truth that such a counter-historic relic of colonialism, right on China's doorstep, could not long endure. Cagily, the British negotiated a 100 percent handover -- but one that included the prospect that Hong Kong, under China, might someday become a one-citizen/one-vote democracy.

The post-1997 road map for the long-awaited evolution toward democracy (of the one-citizen/one-vote variety) was written into the Basic Law, the template constitution negotiated by Beijing and London, that allows for it to occur as early as 2007. But the Basic Law doesn't require it to happen then, and no transformation date was set. Indeed, based on the recent train of negative events, it now seems improbable that this will happen any time soon.

There are at least three reasons for this.

The first is named Chen Shui-bian. The president of Taiwan has been so forceful (and clever) at pushing the formal-independence-from-the-mainland issue that even George W. Bush -- as pro-Taiwan a president as we have had since Ronald Reagan -- felt compelled to ask him to cool it. Basically, it's generally better when the United States says nothing publicly about Taiwan, or Hong Kong for that matter. But China's No. 2, on a visit to Washington, bluntly warned Bush that China would absolutely not shrink from military action if Chen did anything further to advance official independence.

Chen did back down -- but only a bit. That bugged Beijing anew. It views Taiwan as an integral part of China. So when the island's politicians do a freedom-now number, Beijing gets tetchy and emotional, and its generals and admirals get trigger-happy.

Taiwan independence talk also adds to Beijing nervousness about Hong Kong, especially when its "pro-democracy" politicians appear as Chen Shui-bian clones. While the West hears the word "democracy," Beijing apprehends "sedition" and "separation."

That leads directly to the second reason why Beijing is testy about Hong Kong these days: Sam Brownback, the Republican senator from Kansas, who is about as popular in Beijing as Osama bin Laden in Washington. China believes he is potentially as destructive to China, too. Last month Brownback had Martin Lee, the outspoken Hong Kong democracy-now advocate, testify at Senate hearings about Hong Kong.

Brownback may be a sincere pro-democracy advocate, but by colluding in the Lee public-hearings circus in his role as armchair Washington quarterback, he inadvertently set back Hong Kong's democracy movement by a few years.

China, like it or not, will broach no interference in its internal political affairs. It likens the Brownback stunt to Beijing's National Peoples Congress holding hearings on the effect of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget cuts on Chinese students at California campuses. Americans would be enraged by such blatant interference, and rightly so. But America seems to have no sense that its interventions in the affairs of others, no matter how high-minded, enrage rather than charm.

That leads to a third reason why Beijing is edgy about the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Its main man there --- Tung Chee Hwa, the chief executive appointed in 1997 by a small congress of 800 influential local electors -- is a political conservative and Hong Kong patriot. But he and many others (while not appreciative of Chinas bombast) share Beijing's view that Hong Kong is not ready for full democracy.

China wishes Tung had a better handle on the territory's emotions. During last summer's peaceful protest -- 500,000 Hong Kongers in the streets -- China's leaders quaked, as anyone might who had lived through the tragic ordeals of the Tiananmen Square uprising and the nightmarish Cultural Revolution. China can hardly see straight when large crowds swell in its streets, even in relatively remote Hong Kong.

But Taiwan's Chen, Kansas' Brownback and Hong Kong's Tung have set into motion a series of inevitable protest demonstrations that are more likely to end in bloodshed than in democracy. It's a major political tragedy in the making.

 
 

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