ROC Office in Hong Kong and Macao Renamed:
Major Breakthrough in Cross-Strait Relations
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 7, 2011
The Republic of China's representative office in Hong Kong and Macao has recently changed its name. It now uses the same name as other offices abroad, the "Taipei Economic and Cultural Office." Its status has been upgraded. Its functionality has been substantially upgraded as well. Officials posted to Hong Kong and Macao will enjoy the same preferential treatment as those posted to foreign countries. The Hong Kong and Macao governments will also set up offices on Taiwan. This is the first time Taipei and Beijing have set up offices in each others' jurisdictions. For cross-Strait relations, this is a matter of landmark significance.
Over the past 45 years, the Republic of China's representative office in Hong Kong was know as the "Chung Hwa Travel Service." This often led to misunderstandings. It also failed to reflect its status as the agent of an outside authority. Also, if the Republic of China's representative office in Hong Kong wanted to contact agencies within the Hong Kong government, it had to go through specified channels. Now our government can directly contact the relevant departments. MAC officials feel the two sides are finally according each other the respect commensurate with official contacts.
The Republic of China is also authorizing the Hong Kong and Macao governments to establish a Hong Kong Economics, Trade and Cultural Office and a Macao Economic and Cultural Office on Taiwan. These will be manned by officials of the Hong Kong and Macao governments. In other words, buffers between Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao will no longer be required. Such a breakthrough would have been unimaginable in the past.
Cross-strait interactions are peculiar. When Lee Teng-hui was in office, the MAC and ARATS served as buffers. This enabled the two sides to avoid each other. It allowed them to avoid defining the nature of their relationship. When Chen Shui-bian came into office, he ended consultations. Consultations were conducted through representatives of private industry, Some officials simultaneously served as "consultants." But they were authorized to deal only with certain matters.
After Ma Ying-jeou came into office, cross-Strait relations swiftly moved towards reconciliation. The atmosphere improved by leaps and bounds. Exchanges proliferated. Officials met with each other directly. Many departments engaged in direct cooperation and exchanges. High officials engaged in frequent exchanges. Local officials engaged in even more frequent exchanges. Add to this tourism, trade, investments, and student exchanges. In essence, the two sides have already established contacts on different levels. These include official contacts, business cooperation, and the recognition of each others' authority and jurisdiction. These have established an implicit recognition of each others' legal status, predicated upon equality, coexistence, and mutual respect.
The Republic of China's representative office in Hong Kong and Macao can now go by the same name as its offices in foreign countries. Its personnel can receive the same level of treatment. This means the Republic of China government, the Hong Kong government, and the Macao government recognize each others' legal status. This recognition need not be explicit, but merely understood. Equality and mutual respect between officials will promote future cooperation and exchange.
The Republic of China government, the Hong Kong government, and the Macao government consulted several times and arrived at this decision. One reason they were able to do so, was a common concern for economic development. Another was Beijing's willingness to be flexible. The governments of the Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR are special cases. They need not be considered precedents. But if cross-Strait relations continue to improve, the model could be replicated for other local governments on the Chinese mainland. Exchanges between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland could be comprehensive and extensive. Exchanges between the provinces and cities could become increasingly close. When the time is ripe, the governments on both sides could further investigate how to dispatch properly accredited representatives to each others jurisdictions.
President Ma recently attended the 20th anniversary celebration of the Straits Exchange Foundation. The government officially declared an end to the Period of Communist Rebellion and abolished the Temporary Provisions. It no longer refers to the authorities in Beijing as a "rebel group." But it still cannot recognize the Chinese mainland as a sovereign and independent state. According to the Republic of China Constitution, the Chinese mainland is part of the Republic of China. As a result, Taipei and Beijing have decided not to recognize each others sovereignty, but at the same time, not to deny each others jurisdiction. This has enabled the two sides to establish an equitable framework for cross-Strait peace and development, and an important foundation for other exchanges. Cross-Strait consultations must be conducted on the basis of equality, dignity, and reciprocity, to protect the interests of the people.
The Republic of China's representative office in Hong Kong and Macao has been renamed. Officials from the Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR will set up offices on Taiwan. President Ma's proposals have been realized. Cross-Strait exchanges must be sustainable and long term. This means ensuring the sovereignty of the Republic of China, and attending to the interests of its citizens. This means a determination to seek common ground. At this stage, the two sides are refraining from denying each others legitimacy. The two sides are engaged in cooperation and exchange on issues of substance, Bit by bit, the two sides are laying a solid foundation for reconciliation and shared prosperity. This will eventually enable people on both sides to enjoy a better future.
Not long ago, former Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu advocated replacing the 1992 Consensus with the Macao Model. But consider the cross-Strait status quo. The Macao Model is utterly inadequate. The Ma administration has made tremendous strides in cross-Strait relations. Any attempt to revert to the past would set the two sides back. The Republic of China's representative office in Hong Kong and Macao has made enormous progress. The DPP really needs to adopt a more pragmatic approach, one that does not return cross-Strait policy to the past. The situation is clear. The two sides have made immense progress. Ma Ying-jeou has achieved astonishing results during his first term in office. Everyone on Taiwan is a beneficiary. Therefore whoever assumes office next, must maintain these policies.