By 1992, Britain had introduced large quantities of democratic measures in Hong Kong, in an attempt to further their independence before China became their government. However, when Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, the Chinese government abolished the legislature that the British had established, and created their own provisional legislature. Yet China allowed, in 1998, for the election of prodemocracy parties, and again in 2000 (Lagasse, et al., "Hong Kong").
However, China still states that the treaties which created Hong Kong were signed under coercion by both British and Western influence, and thus, do not have to be honored. Although China appears willing to allow for Hong Kong to be autonomous for 50 years, they do not appear to want to extend that right beyond the 2047 period. As long as Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, China will handle, at minimum, the foreign and defense of the area. It is unclear, however, how the socialist government of China will be introduced into this autonomous area, when the time comes (Lagasse, et al., "Hong Kong").
It is precisely this reunification plan between Hong Kong and China which includes "One Country, Two Systems" that Taiwan has been fighting against. The Hong Kong reunification includes China's assurances that they can continue to use their own currency, maintain their status as a separate customs territory, continue to maintain their government structure, and continue to provide their own armed forces. This same offer was given to the people of Taiwan in 2001, in a continued effort to reunify (Blatt, B7).
The offer from China contained even more provisions, as well. China assured that all public monies of Taiwan would remain on the Taiwan island, and that Beijing would assure private property rights. Even further, China would give Taiwan full power and authority over their political appointments. Additionally, the Chinese representatives did not rule out force to reunify Taiwan with mainland China (Blatt, B7).
Chen, the representative of Taiwan, flatly refused. Mr. Chen stated, "It's as if one day, your neighbor suddenly runs into your house and sordidly declares, 'I want to take over your house. But I can permit you to live here and continue to use some of the furniture'," (Blatt, B7). Chen continued to say that unification held nothing for the Taiwanese, since all the concessions China was willing to give were already in place with the existing system. (Blatt, B7).
Chen continued to refute the efforts of China to treat Taiwan as Hong Kong, pointing out the main differences between Taiwan and Hong Kong. Taiwan has the ability and right, currently, to elect their own president. Hong Kong, however, must have an imperial order from the government of Beijing to appoint a chief executer, and the government of Beijing can dismiss the chief executive at any given time (Blatt, B7).
There are other considerations as well when examining the Hong Kong reunification ideas and the current state of Taiwan. The OCTS system contains in its provisions the ability for continuation of neo-colonialism on Chinese soil for 50 years in Hong Kong, under Chinese sovereignty. However, according to the Taiwanese, this policy cannot apply to them, since their foundation is based in capitalism, not colonialism (Liu, A02).
The fundamental problem with this is that Taiwan and China have economic dependence on one another than results in an almost impossible impasse. Taiwan firms in mainland China export almost 40% of China's total exports each year. Additionally, large investors in mainland China's economy are Taiwanese companies. Conversely, over 250,000 Taiwanese people live in Shanghai in connection with business operations, and another 750,000 are spread throughout China. Tourism from China is a large part of the Taiwanese economy, as well. If the two areas were to stop ties altogether, both economies would be in a crisis (Keliher, J24).
Hong Kong, however, is not completely ready to reunify with China, according to recent elections and demonstrations. In 2003, a bill passed by Beijing that would have out into place anti-subversion policies caused massive marches and protests from the people of Hong Kong, who felt the measure would threaten their freedoms. Additionally, in April of 2004, Beijing ruled out the option for the people of Hong Kong to directly choose their leader in the 2007 elections, a decision which caused outrage among the Hong Kong people (Wire, a).
Strain in the Taiwan Strait in 2004 has also caused even more problems in the unification of Taiwan and China. Aircraft from China reportedly threatened a plane carrying Taiwan President Chen. Additionally, a submarine believed to be Chinese was found violating territorial waters. Further, a proposed deal between the U.S. And Taiwan would allow for arms sales to Taiwan in the amount of $18 billion dollars. While Chen called for a ban on weapons of mass destruction, and a no-military zone in the straight between Taiwan and China, many believe this move to attempt to show independence, implying that China and Taiwan are on equal ground. China, who still maintains that Taiwan is a sovereignty, flatly refused (Wire, b).
Both Taiwan and Hong Kong have long histories with Communist giant China. While Hong Kong has, in the past, remained a relatively quiet sovereignty of China, recent events may indicate that the 2047 transition to Chinese government rule in the area may prove difficult, even with the standing 50 years of autonomy. Currently, however, the Hong Kong economy and society is deeply entrenched with that of mainland China, and relations are overall positive.
Taiwan, however, has had a constant battle for independence since its original inception. Furthering military tensions in the strait, constant refusal by the Taiwanese to cooperate, and overall disagreements from foreign policies to human rights to economic ideals prove to further divide the two areas. However, with both sides of the strait so dependent on the other for economic success, any attempts to completely break the ties would be detrimental to both Taiwan and China.
In reality, the relations between China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are bound to have problems. Technically, all three areas represent one country, that of China. However, employed within that country are three separate systems, those of socialism, national capitalism, and residual colonialism. In addition, there are two independent government entities, those of China and Taiwan, and one government that relies not only on mainland China, but also on the independent people of the area, that of Hong Kong. Any attempts to reunify any of these areas will require all parties to cooperate fully, and to set aside animosity and frustration based on principle. It is policy, not principle, which will allow these areas to live in a harmonious relationship with one another. Without all sides participating in the plans to solve the issues, none of the issues has any hope of resolving. While the "One Government, Two Systems" approach may show promise, it will have to be reworked and refined in order for either Hong Kong or Taiwan to have any hope of democracy, or of freedoms.
Blatt, Jason. "President Chen Condemns Hong Kong Style Unification Plan." South China Morning Post 14 July 2001: B7.
Ito, Kiyoshi. "Taiwan-400 Years of History and Outlook." Taiwan's 400 Years of History. 1996. Taiwan Communique. 22 Nov. 2004. http://members.shaw.ca/leksu/mainp3e.htm.
Keliher, Macabe, & Meer, Craig. "Taiwan and China: Too Close for Comfort?." Asia Times 24 Oct. 2003: J24.
Kung, Feitau & Chia, Eric. "The Taiwan Timeline." Taiwan's 400 Years of History. 2004. Taiwan Communique. 22 Nov. 2004. http://taiwanresources.com/info/history/chrono.htm.
Lagasse, Paul, Goldman, Lora, Hobson, Archie, Norton, Susan, & Columbia University. "Taiwan." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 2000.
Lagasse, Paul, Goldman, Lora, Hobson, Archie, Norton, Susan, & Columbia University. "Hong Kong." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 2000.