SCMP Thursday, May 18, 2000

SAR fears for Taiwan's future: poll

FRANCIS MORIARTY for SCMP.com


Hong Kong people say they are fearful that worsening relations between the mainland and Taiwan might turn violent. And based on their experience so far, they would not recommend ''One Country-Two Systems'' to Taiwan.

The findings are contained in the latest public-opinion study by the Hong Kong Transition Project, which has been tracking people's concerns about the return to China for more than 15 years.

Dr Michael Degolyer, director of The Hong Kong Transition Project, told SCMP.com that the latest poll by his organization shows "very significant" fear among people here that cross-straits tensions could erupt, with negative consequences for Hong Kong.

Dr Degolyer declined to give the exact statistical results, saying he would reveal them later on Thursday morning at a news conference.

The project's new study is called "Reform: Hong Kong's Version of One Country Two-Systems and China's Path to Unification".

He said the project decided to look at reform issues because they were implicit in the campaign and victory of Taiwan's president-elect, Chen Shui-bian, and because Hong Kong has been undergoing significant reforms since the 1997 reversion to Chinese sovereignty.

He said there were also pressures for reforms building in Macau since its handover from Portuguese administration last December.

The poll asked Hong Kong people whether, based on what had transpired since becoming an Special Administrative Region, they thought the One Country-Two Systems formula would be good for Taiwan to adopt. "The short answer, " said Dr Degolyer, "is no."

He said the results "could be considered embarrassing to the administration of the Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa, and indicate that a lot of work needs to be done to win people over."

Dr Degolyer said the poll results also show dissatisfaction with Mr Tung's government, as well as a wide disparity between many respondents and Mr Tung over issues of constitutional reform, such as the form which Hong Kong's democracy should take. He added that even among people who say they think Mr Tung is doing a good job, there was a "surprising" number who do not want him to seek a second term of office.

Dr Degolyer said the results also indicated that there was a link in people's minds between their worries about Taiwan and their concerns over pollution.

"It's all part of the environment, " he said, adding: "There's lead in the air and fear of lead in the sky."