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---"Focused Coverage Informed Perspectives"---
Mon, Jan 5, 1998 edition
Holiday Fun
Premier Lien Chan goes to Singapore, golfs with officials . . .

Also in this edition . . .

1: Premier denies calling for Singapore to broker in mainland problems
2: to govern island republic,DPP must have coherent policy for mainland
3: it might be hell, but students want entrance exam kept
4: op-ed: 'Mandela, I see as no one special anymore'
5: to maintain exports China may have to devalue currency
6: government ruffles more than a few feathers in bird slaughter, Asian countries take precautions
7: figure thought responsible for Tiananmen crackdown will meet protest
8: Cuba: mainland China invests in island's tourist industry with Chinese restaurant


Singapore: holiday diplomacy
(source: Central News Agency) Vice President Lien Chan played golf Sunday morning with President Ong Teng Cheong of Singapore before leaving for home in the afternoon. Lien arrived in Singapore on Thursday for a four-day private visit.

Lien played golf with Singaporean Interior Minister Wong Kan Seng Friday morning and with Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong Saturday afternoon. Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Su Chi, who accompanied Lien on the visit, told CNA that Lien and Goh spent eight hours together Saturday, playing golf and eating dinner. Su said it had been "a very good private visit" for Lien, adding that during the visit the vice president met with many good friends, hearing a lot from them, and talking a lot with them.

But Su declined to disclose the contents of their talks. Lien later held a press conference at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport in Taoyuan after returning to Taiwan late yesterday afternoon.

News conference: Premier denies calling for Singapore to broker in mainland problems
Vice President Lien Chan yesterday said cross-strait problems are to be worked out jointly by Taiwan and mainland China, denying Taipei had requested Singapore to act as a go-between.

"Today we have an established channel (with Beijing), and there is no barrier in the exchange of information," Lien told a news briefing on his return from a "holiday diplomacy" trip from Singapore. "When Chinese talk to Chinese, it isn't necessary to have a third party to act as a bridge."

The vice president had met with Singapore's national leaders including Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and President Ong Teng Cheong during the four-day visit. As Singapore is widely known as a friend of both Taipei and Beijing, cross-strait relations were expected to be a major topic in Lien's conversations. Lien admitted that his Singaporean "friends" generally had paid close attention to cross-strait ties during his meeting with them.

Lien said the Singaporean leaders had urged Taipei to "face the problem in a more positive manner." In reply, Lien said he told them that Taipei had adopted over 100 measures to promote civil exchanges across the Taiwan Strait despite the interruption of dialogue and had repeatedly asked Beijing to restore talks without preconditions in order to resolve their problems pragmatically. Lien urged Beijing to respond to the call soon and stop "passing words through the media."

Taiwan often employs "holiday diplomacy" in an effort to counter Beijing's efforts to isolate it diplomatically, while Singapore has quietly kept up good relations with Taiwan. In the absence of official ties, Taipei leaders have gone there in recent years to play golf with their counterparts.

DPP: to govern island republic, party must have coherent policy for mainland
(source: Reuters) The Democratic Progressive Party's dramatic drubbing of the long-ruling Kuomintang in November's local elections raised hopes that it finally had the support to become the ruling party after decades of struggle. But DPP Chairman Hsu Hsin-liang, in a weekend interview, said there was still much convincing to do when it comes to the five-decade-old cross-strait rivalry.

"Whether the Democratic Progressive Party can win the parliamentary and presidential elections will depend on how it adjusts its policy towards China," Hsu told Reuters. "I firmly believe that if the Democratic Progressive Party cannot convince the Taiwan people that it can peacefully coexist with China, it will never become a ruling party," Hsu said.

The next Legislative Yuan elections will be held in late 1998, while the second presidential poll will be held in 2000. Hsu affirmed his own presidential ambitions, something sure to intensify a rivalry with Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian, a popular DPP figure who is expected to run, "I will not give up pursuit of the goal of leading Taiwan," Hsu said.

Hsu, who spent time in exile and in prison in a bitter quest that led to the opposition's legalization in 1987, said there was a world of difference between winning a local election and being elected to national office. Hsu says his party, if it wishes to rule Taiwan, must not irk Beijing or the world by being "provocative" on the independence issue.

Risking his reputation by defying the pro-independence camp, Hsu has played down a 1990 party platform that says establishment of a new Republic of Taiwan should be decided by referendum. Hsu calls a referendum an "extreme" move that risks losing international "support, sympathy, and understanding," which he says remains vital for Taiwan's survival and development. "Taiwan cannot afford to be isolated from the international community. Without international support, Taiwan will throw itself into an extremely difficult situation," Hsu said.

The United States, Japan, and other world powers have backed Taiwan and its democratic rebirth despite cutting diplomatic ties with Taipei to recognize Beijing, but Hsu said Taiwan's people must understand such support was not unconditional. "International society will not allow China to attack Taiwan," he said. "Likewise, it will demand that Taiwan exercise self-restraint and not be politically provocative."

Under Hsu's conception of a new world order, military conflict across the Taiwan Strait would be "unthinkable and absolutely impossible" as long as Taiwan maintains its de facto independence and a mutually beneficial coexistence with mainland China. In its quest for national power, he said, the DPP must establish contacts with Beijing and "actively participate" in cross-strait talks.

Education: it might be hell, but students want entrance exam kept
(source: Central News Agency)

The poll, jointly conducted by the Business Administration Association of the ROC and students at Chunghsing University, found that 72 percent of the polled students opposed suspending the university entrance exam held every July.

A total of 1,560 questionnaires were sent to college and university students around the island to gauge their opinions on educational reforms proposed by the Ministry of Education. 1,458 completed copies were mailed back. As many as 50 percent of the respondents opposed suspending the university entrance exam, while another 22 percent expressed strong opposition. Only 14 percent of those surveyed supported abolishing the entrance exam altogether.

Although 41 percent of the respondents in the poll said that they believe an application system for university admission, which is a new method proposed by the Education Ministry, can rectify the shortcoming of allowing students' academic careers to be determined by a single examination, 45 percent expressed concern over the fairness of the application system. 55 percent of the respondents did not see the recommendation system for university admission as a fair and desirable method. However, 40 percent supported raising the number of students admitted to universities through the recommendation system on a yearly basis. Under that system, high school students referred for university admission on the basis of their excellent performance in certain fields would still have to take part in a specially designed screening exam.

In addition, 48 percent of the respondents rated the educational reform policy proposed by Education Minister Wu Jin as "ordinary," while 33 percent of the respondents rated the proposals unsatisfactory, higher than the 19 percent which felt the reform policy to be acceptable.


South Africa: Ms TKG writes on Nelson Mandela, whose government switched formal recognition from Taiwan to the PRC. The author laments Mr Mandela's failure to maintain moral and ethical coherence---to maintaining one's integrity---in discharging the affairs of government. . . . .


Regional economics: to maintain exports China may have to devalue currency
(source: Agence France-Presse)

As Southeast Asia's economies expect a further erosion of their currencies, there are fears that mainland China could devalue the yuan to remain competitive against the region's exports, analysts say.

A devaluation of the yuan, which is not freely traded on world markets, would spur the growth of mainland Chinese exports faced with rising competition from cheaper Southeast Asian goods but could rattle the Hong Kong dollar and aggravate Asia's financial turmoil. "Our stance is that there will be pressure on the Chinese yuan to depreciate in 1998. And if it does, there will be speculative pressure on the Hong Kong dollar and the crisis will deepen," said Jacqueline Ong, regional economist with London-based financial house I.D.E.A.

She said present weaknesses in troubled Asian economies competing with mainland China for exports was already enough to prod Beijing's policy makers to devalue the yuan. Mainland Chinese exports had become more expensive compared to those of the currency-weakened Asian economies, all of which were expecting to absorb fewer imports from mainland China, studies by Ong showed. Based on the studies, mainland China "would struggle to register any export growth at all" in 1998 from the current 20 percent rate of expansion.

"With no exports growth, Chinese GDP (gross domestic product) expansion could slow to six percent, a sensitive, perhaps trigger, level for domestic policy makers which can cause mammoth unemployment," Ong warned. Last week, Beijing announced that its gross domestic product would rise an estimated 8.8 percent in 1997-significantly lower than the 10 percent that had been projected by government and private economists.

An export slowdown in mainland China would be a "significantly dampener" to Hong Kong, whose 60 percent of re-exports originate in the world's most populous country, Ong said. Since the currency crisis broke on July 2, the U.S. dollar has gained a 149 percent against the rupiah, 95 percent against the baht, 57 percent against the ringgit, 56 percent against the peso and the 19 percent against the Singapore dollar.

Public health: government ruffles more than a few feathers in bird slaughter, Asian countries take precautions
And the government faced further pressure when hundreds of protesters marched through Hong Kong Sunday demanding better compensation for the slaughter of 1.5 million chickens.

Indonesian authorities banned imports of chickens from Hong Kong, while international airports in the Philippines were placed on alert for any goods smuggled from Hong Kong and officials screened all arrivals from the territory. "Since the discovery of the spread of a flu virus through chickens in Hong Kong in early December that has led to the death of four people, the Indonesian government has halted imports of chicken and fowl meat from that country," Indonesian Health Minister Suyudi said late Saturday.

In the Philippines, Agricultural Secretary Salvador Escudero said all passengers from Hong Kong "are being checked (for the bird flu) by a doctor and interviewed" when they arrive at an airport here.

Some 700 chicken breeders, farmers, vendors and drivers, all affected by the chicken cull, marched to the Hong Kong government offices carrying banners, streamers and posters, calling for compensation for lost incomes. More than 30,000 people, including drivers transporting the poultry, were temporarily out of work as a result of the government's move, the chicken industry's labor union said. It estimated HK$10 million (US$ 1.3 million) has been lost since the cull began last week.

Their protest came as sources warned hundreds of thousands more birds may meet the same fate as the slaughtered chickens. Test results due early next week will show if they have been infected with the H5N1 virus, the source said. Four people have now died from the virus and three others are in a critical condition, from a total of 16 now confirmed cases and five suspected sufferers.

There are about a million ducks, geese, quails and pigeons in Hong Kong. Those normally housed closed to chickens in farms and markets have already been slaughtered as a precaution. The government has also engaged experts to test rats, cats, and dogs to see whether they could also transmit the virus, after officials admitted scavenging animals had opened sacks of slaughtered chickens.

Yang Shangkun: figure thought responsible for Tiananmen crackdown will meet protest
(source: Agence France-Presse)

Former mainland Chinese president Yang Shangkun, widely believed to be responsible for the military crackdown of pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989, will face protests on his first visit to Hong Kong, sources said Sunday.

Yang, 90, is due to arrive here on Monday from Shenzhen in the fourth such trip by groups of retired Communist Chinese leaders wanting to see at first-hand life in Hong Kong after the July 1 return to mainland Chinese rule. However, activists from the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement, set up to support the 1989 student-led protests in mainland China, as well as those from the radical April Fifth movement, were planning to stage demonstrations during Yang's visit.

"It is the best opportunity to show Yang what we think of the crackdown," said Cheung Man-Kwong, spokesman for the alliance and a former legislator. Although Yang has officially retired, he must still be held responsible for the June 4 massacre when soldiers fired on unarmed protesters in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, said Cheung. However, activists were uncertain where to stage their protests as Yang's visit was considered by the Hong Kong government as "private" and no details of his activists have been released.

Yang, who stepped down from his post in 1992, had backed late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in clamping down on pro-democracy protests in mainland China in 1989.

Cuba: (source: Reuters) Mainland China has made its first investment in Cuba's tourist industry with a 110-seat Chinese restaurant at the beach resort of Varadero, state media reported on Saturday.

The Cuban Communist Party daily Granma said the restaurant cost US$151,000. But it gave no details of exactly how the association was structured.

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