Hong Kong handover: Tension rises as Taiwan moves up China's list

The return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty was supposed to be a model for Taiwan's reunification with the motherland. But it is causing problems for all three parties.

When the paramount Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, devised his plan for one country, two systems, he was mainly thinking of its application to Taiwan, while suggesting that the model would be tested in Hong Kong after the return to Chinese sovereignty on 1 July.

However, as the handover nears, tension between China and Taiwan has again risen with the latter announcing a major military exercise to start on Monday. China is rumoured to be planning a counter-exercise.

The presence of John Chang, Taiwan's foreign minister, in the United States has also raised the temperature, following official Chinese protests and allegations that the visit is in breach of agreements to "restrict US-Taiwan relations to the unofficial arena". Taiwan, which seems to be taking the lead in upping the ante, is nevertheless in the embarrassing position of having to join China in welcoming the end of colonial rule and the reunification of a part of China.

This is why some 60 Taiwanese representatives will be present at the handover ceremony. The delegation is likely to be headed by Koo Chen-fu, a businessman and leader of the quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation which is taking the first steps in holding reunification talks with Chinese counterparts.

As ever, Taiwan's presence is no simple matter. The Taiwan government insists that its representatives must not be seated with Chinese local government officials, implying that Taiwan is no more than a province.

Earlier in the year the Chinese Communist Party distributed an internal document describing 1997 as a "crucial year" which would see `the historic resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong' and signaled that an attempt would be made to initiate talks with the Taiwan government under President Lee Teng-hui.

However, President Lee is showing no obvious enthusiasm for participation in talks about reunification. Beset by domestic crises, the Taiwanese leader sees little advantage in engaging in a risky bout of diplomacy when public opinion remains heavily against a return to China. A poll published this week in Taiwan showed that just 13 per cent of the population were in favour; 53 per cent were happy with the status quo.

Nevertheless, China is in the throes of reunification celebrations and has hinted that the handover might be an appropriate time to resume the dialogue on this matter.

Although China has made it clear that it will not tolerate what it regards as Taiwan "separatist" activity in Hong Kong, it has not insisted on the closure of Taiwan's semi-official government offices. Pro-Taiwan organisations have staged a strategic retreat, lowering their profile and, in some cases, sending leading members to live in Taiwan. The government has closed down the last remaining pro-Taiwan settlement and the once influential Taiwan- backed trade unions are now barely visible.

But China has given no sign that it will prevent Hong Kong retaining its role as a transit point between Taiwan and the mainland. In January, a tentative start was made in establishing direct shipping links but direct air routes and most cargo transfers remain banned. The largest group of overseas visitors using Hong Kong's airport come from Taiwan, and many Taiwan investors operating in China do so from a Hong Kong base. The establishment of direct ties between China and Taiwan would have a serious impact on the Hong Kong economy.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living