China Informed: a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong

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Tue, Mar 4, 1997
Finding Balance Between HK and PRC

also: the PLA's budget grows; Li Peng talks about ethnic problems; Taiwan and U.S. air travel; computers; and more . . .

Last night's build used the wrong headline and contained some rather poorly constructed sentences. I have inserted the right headline and tried to clean up the language, as well as clearly delineate my opinion from the facts.

Please read the statement of purpose.

Hong Kong: Sunday's article in Inside China reported on the conversation between Hong Kong's Chief Executive-designate Tung Chee-hwa and CNN's Mike Chinoy (See below under Hong Kong). CNN has the entire conversation on its World News page. The conversation is important to read and to read carefully. A few point from it are:

  • Tung reiterates a number of times that at the basis of Hong Kong's relationship with mainland China is the concept of "one-country two-systems" and the Basic Law. When thinking about how the future SAR's political system will develop, we would do well to consider both of these as fundamental to the Hong Kong constitution. Tung said, "I think the most important thing is for us to uphold the autonomy. And the best way to uphold the autonomy is to make sure the Basic Law, the 'one country two systems' concept, works. That is the most important for us."

  • Freedom of press: "Freedom of the press and freedom of speech is specifically guaranteed under Article 27 of the Basic Law," Tung said.

  • Freedom of assembly and to demonstrate: Tung said, both are guaranteed. But he distinguishes between a person's right to demonstrate and "to offer constructive suggestions or criticism," and a person who makes "slanderous or derogatory remarks, or personal attacks against other people."

  • In statements made later, Tung framed the issues as this: "I submit the issue is really about balancing the rights of individuals vis-a-vis the order of our society. But where's the balance? Now I think we the Hong Kong people now we have the opportunity to decide for ourselves how to go about it. The fact is, in America, in Canada, in many cities in the U.K., you need police permission to demonstrate. Now if our conclusion is to ask police permission to demonstrate, it is not a roll back on civil liberty, it is really an issue of balancing between rights and order of our society."

  • Tung points out that it is unlawful under current Hong Kong law to make slanderous or derogatory remarks against the British royal family. He goes on to say that this law may be adapted so that "similar remarks against Chinese leaders" would be "unlawful."

Soapbox: one could read from this conversation that the success of Tung's administration will hinge on his way of finding that so-called "balance" between the 'individual' and 'society,' AND between 'Hong Kong' and 'mainland China.' Perhaps I am reading this incorrectly, but I think what is shaping up here amounts to a confirmation of Chris Patten's strategy. What was this 'strategy'? Perhaps it was to place issues of "democracy," "freedom", and "civil rights" at the heart of all of his (and Britain's) relations with China, and thus leave China little recourse but to respond; it is true, one must admit, that the level of "democracy" introduced by the governor in recent years is without precedent in Britain's administration of the colony, and China recognized this. But just as Patten's strategy could be considered 'radical' by China, equally so was China's response. The strategy forced China to take somewhat radical or reactionary postures vis-a-vis these new initiatives put forth by Patten, and to do so in the name of principle and upholding the Basic Law.

Once something has been "radicalized," is there any other recourse but to find a "balance"? Is that not at the heart of "democracy"? Just some thoughts . . .

Military: the budget for military procurement and upkeep will increase 14.7 percent over last year's budget and 12.7 percent higher than actual spending in 1996, reports Inside China.

The paper notes that China has been upgrading its military capabilities for many years now, buying aircraft and warships from Russia and elsewhere. The paper explains, however, that where China gains in new advanced weaponry, it lacks in logistical support and training; it will be many years before the PLA will be able to use this equipment, reports the paper.

The paper writes that this announcement is meant to demonstrate, to foreign governments and the Chinese military itself, the leadership commitment to Deng Xiaoping's ideas on building a modern army.

Japanese analysts quoted by the paper note that China's plans call for achieving parity with the world's modern armies, and thus the increase in military procurement poses little threat to Japan and ASEAN, which has "localized" its "quarrel with China over the Spratly Islands", reports the paper. The notable exception, however, is Taiwan. "Now with concerns over Taiwan -- they want to have a military establishment that is capable of defending Chinese sovereignty," the expert said.

This statement is a bit unclear, but the analysts apparently meant that to defend "Chinese sovereignty" was to prevent Taiwan's independence. Or did they mean, defend against a Taiwanese military threat?

Ethnic problems: a note about Li Peng's address to the National People's Congress (NPC) (See below under Party politics on Sat., Mar. 1): Inside China has picked up on the story (and it is essentially the same one provided by CNN below) and notes that Li singled out ethnic unrest as something against which the government would take a hard line. Indeed, the government would "unswervingly safeguard the unity of the motherland and ethnic unity, and resolutely oppose any words or activities designed to split the country or damage ethnic unity."

The Chinese government is treating the bombings last week in Xinjiang as simply a "terrorist" act. Although the local media singled out in a long article, written on the same day of the bombings in Urumqi, "ethnic separatism and 'illegal religious activities' ", reports Inside China.

Taiwan: the U.S. and Taiwan have signed the open skies aviation pact, an aviation agreement ending restrictions on air travel between the two countries, reports Inside China. The pact is part of a broader U.S. initiative to remove restrictions between many nations, including Singapore and Malaysia, and to open up markets to free trade.

Computers: Boardwatch investigates Singapore's internet services in an article entitled, SINGAPORE: An Asian Tiger With A Worthy Presence.

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China Informed

a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong
©1997 Matthew Sinclair-Day