Cross-Strait Forum Held Amid Rising Tensions

Hong Kong-Taiwan in tit-for-tat visa spat . . .

Two officials posted to Hong Kong’s representative office in Taipei returned home this week after their permits for residence in Taiwan were rejected. The rejection followed Hong Kong’s announcement that visas for Taiwanese officials working in the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong would not be renewed unless they sign a document supporting Beijing’s ‘One China’ policy, which claims Taiwan as a part of China. Observers in Taiwan linked the new condition to Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, which criminalizes secession-related activities. At least one official has been forced to return to Taiwan after refusing to sign the document.

Taipei-Shanghai Forum strikes a different tone . . .

Relations between Taiwan and China are at a historic low this year, with Taipei criticizing Beijing over its COVID-19 response and Hong Kong’s autonomy. Beneath the level of central governments, however, cross-strait dialogues have continued to take place. The annual Taipei-Shanghai Forum – a city-to-city, municipal-issues forum – was held virtually on Wednesday in both cities. Officials at the forum struck a markedly friendly tone, with Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je saying that the two neighbours are better off as “one family.” Shanghai Mayor Gong Zheng, meanwhile, said that Shanghai and Taipei could learn from each other and nurture even closer bonds. The forum also touched on disease management and economic recovery.

What’s next for cross-strait relations?

Despite efforts at the city level to work together on issues of common concern, tensions between Taipei and Beijing seem to have crossed a point of no return. In particular, China’s handling of protests in Hong Kong and its subsequent introduction of the National Security Law has further tainted its perception in Taiwan. According to a poll released in June, the percentage of people in Taiwan who don’t identify as “Chinese” stands at 67 per cent, up from 54.5 per cent in 2018. With pro-Beijing KMT’s landslide loss in the 2020 general election in Taiwan, in addition to the recent parliamentary votes to rebrand its national carrier and passport, the island democracy seems set on a one-way course: away from Beijing.