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Holism and Pragmatism - Current ROC Policy Toward Hong Kong and Macao (Aug 2001)

Holism and Pragmatism - Current ROC Policy Toward Hong Kong and Macao
Mainland Affairs Council

August 2001

1.Current state of exchange between Taiwan and Hong Kong/Macao

Since the ROC government lifted the ban on travels to the mainland for family visits in November 1987 and on indirect investment in the mainland by Taiwan businesses in 1990, the intermediary role of Hong Kong and Macao has increased tremendously. In addition, as a result of the government’s encouragement and the people’s spontaneous promotion, many Hong Kong and Macao politicians, traders, and academics have visited Taiwan to personally experience our economic development and democratic achievements. The frequent civilian exchanges form a vital link in the chain of relationship between Taiwan and Hong Kong/Macao. This situation has not been affected by the change of status of Hong Kong in 1997 and Macao in 1999.

Economically, the volume of trade between Taiwan and Hong Kong exceeded US$33 billion in 2000, making Hong Kong the second largest exporting destination and the third largest trading partner of Taiwan. Taiwan is the fourth largest trading partner of Hong Kong and Taiwan’s trade with Macao also topped US$360 million.

In personnel exchanges, Hong Kong and Macao residents made more than 295,000 trips to Taiwan in 2000, whereas people from Taiwan made more than 2.8 million trips to Hong Kong. These figures made Taiwan the second largest source of visitors for Hong Kong and the third largest source of visitors for Macao. The frequent travels led to rapid growth of airline businesses between Taiwan/Hong Kong and Taiwan/Macao, and sometimes a ticket is acquired at premium. The nature of the visits range from business trips, sight-seeing, to transits to the mainland, bringing new vitality to the economy there. When Taiwan opens-up to mainland tourists, the important intermediary status of Hong Kong and Macao is expected to become all the more conspicuous.

Culturally, the ROC government has taken steps to actively promote the exchange of scholarly visits and to encourage private academic, literary, and art exchanges between Taiwan and Hong Kong/Macao. Moreover, Hong Kong and Macao students returning from Taiwan after completing higher education have also contributed to the growth and development of these two places.

In recent years, trade, social, and cultural exchanges between the private sectors of Taiwan and Hong Kong/Macao have all enjoyed remarkable growth. Despite so, inter-government contacts by comparison have been restrained by the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Region(”SAR”)authorities, after 1997 and 1999 respectively. Since then, in some areas, government contacts are not even comparable to those between Taiwan and the mainland. This is due to the adoption of the principles and policies set forth by Chinese vice premier Qian Qichen, often referred to as “Qian’s Seven Articles”. Taking account of insufficient interaction between Taiwan and Hong Kong/Macao, and the current position of the two “SAR” authorities, the ROC government remains hopeful in finding ways to improve relations and to find effective solutions to address emerging issues as a result of increasing contacts between Taiwan and Hong Kong/Macao.

2.ROC government’s position on relations with Hong Kong and Macao

The ROC government has assumed a consistent and continuous policy in its interaction with Hong Kong and Macao. In order to promote the range of activities with Hong Kong after 1997 and with Macao after 1999, the ROC government has defined these two places as “special districts” to distinguish them from the mainland. Traditional direct contact between the people of Taiwan and Hong Kong/Macao have been preserved in the hope that propitious interactions can be furthered. The ROC government, being aware of the uniqueness and importance of Hong Kong and Macao, will continue to handle Taiwan’s relationship with them in an open and foresighted way.

For seven consecutive years, Hong Kong has been ranked by the US Heritage Foundation to have the most liberal economic system. On the other hand, Macao also has its advantages and potentials for future economic development. With Taiwan and mainland expected to join the World Trade Organization, the ROC government is hopeful that economic and trade liberalization as well as its integration into the world’s trading community will lead to the normalization of relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Economic development is fundamental to national development and people’s livelihood, it is therefore a concern of the majority, and a harmonious and stable environment is indispensable for such development. In this regard, the ROC government will work to strengthen relations between Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, and the mainland, based upon the principles of mutual respect and reciprocity in searching for a mutually beneficial way of cooperation. Only by this way will we be able to play a more significant role on the world stage in the 21st century and for the greater welfare of the people.

3.The goal and specific measures

The ROC government will handle its Hong Kong-Macao affairs in the spirit of “goodwill reconciliation, active cooperation, and permanent peace” which President Chen Shui-bian declared in his inaugural address. By fully respecting the supreme autonomy of the Hong Kong and Macao, the government will aim to: (1) maintain propitious development in relations with Hong Kong and Macao, (2) promote mutual exchanges and cooperation, and (3) jointly work towards peace and prosperity. With goodwill, pragmatism, and service as the starting point, the ROC government will actively implement the following tasks:

a. Strengthen the functions of our agencies in Hong Kong and Macao: We will extend our services to include ROC citizens, Hong Kong and Macao residents, foreigners in Hong Kong and Macao, as well as people from the mainland who go to Taiwan via Hong Kong and Macao. At the same time, we will continue to find ways to resolve issues that have emerged from exchanges. The agencies will also work to expand and strengthen the range of services and promote service efficiency/quality to facilitate exchanges between the people.

b. Expand the diversity of contact in Hong Kong and Macao to increase mutual understanding: The government will continue, based on the existing foundations, to promote exchanges and cooperation with organizations. In addition, the government will work to diversify and establish connections, particularly in expanding multifarious in-depth exchanges in the areas of economics and trade, culture and education, and academics between Taiwan and Hong Kong/Macao.

c. Enhance rules and regulations related to people of Hong Kong and Macao residing in or coming to Taiwan: The government aims to resolve problems related to people from Hong Kong/Macao residing in or coming to Taiwan based on the principles of goodwill, thoughtfulness, and pragmatism. It will also strengthen its contacts, provide consultations, and review or whenever possible, adjust the relevant laws and regulations to safeguard the rights and interests of Hong Kong and Macao citizens.

4.Anticipations and efforts

Taiwan’s relations with Hong Kong and Macao have always been an indicator of its relations with the mainland. Under present circumstances, harmonious and stable relations between Taiwan and Hong Kong/Macao will not only contribute to mutual prosperity and development but also have a positive impact on cross-strait relations. In this respect, the ROC government will continue to promote exchanges, understanding, and cooperation with Hong Kong and Macao. We also hope the Beijing authorities and the Hong Kong and Macao SAR authorities will pragmatically handle their relations with Taiwan from a perspective that is both holistic, long-term, sincere, and well-intentioned. By doing so, we can work towards establishing a normalized mechanism for contact and reconciliation, strengthen government communication, and thereby lay a sounder foundation for the relations between Taiwan and Hong Kong/Macao. The ROC government looks forward to establishing representative agencies of both Hong Kong and Macao in Taiwan, so that the quality of services provided to their people can be enhanced.


We live in an environment of on-going changes. In adapting to the changes, we have to adjust to different ways of thinking, respect mutual differences, and focus on similarities; by doing so, we are constructing foundations for peaceful, solid, and stable relations as well as facilitating the sharing of mutual benefits.

Hong Kong and Macao function as major intermediaries in the relationship between Taiwan and the mainland, therefore, any improvement of relations between Taiwan/Hong Kong and Macao will be conducive to a peaceful and stable cross-strait relationship. We believe, and we are hopeful that on the outset of the new century, we can jointly work together to create victory for all four sides.