Locals back Beijing Olympic hosts

The China Post staff and agencies

Despite worries by some government officials, more than half of Taiwan’s residents support Beijing winning the right to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.

According to a survey conducted by the leading daily, the China Times, 56 percent of the respondents threw their weight behind Beijing’s success on the grounds that the mega-event would leave mainland China no time to aggressively deal with Taiwan in the next seven years.

They believed that this could help improve cross-strait relations, according to the survey.

Only eight percent of the respondents disapproved of the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award the hosting right to Beijing.

The survey of 813 people selected randomly island-wide was conducted Saturday, the day after Beijing overwhelmingly won the coveted right to host the event.

Forty-seven percent said they thought the Chinese communists would shake off lingering hostility towards them in the seven years to the 2008 Olympics.

Many in Taiwan believe the Games could be a safety valve for venting mainland aggression. Beijing claims the island as its territory and has repeatedly threatened to invade should it declare formal independence.

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou of the leading opposition Kuomintang (KMT) however rejected this notion as wishful thinking.

“Maybe some think there will not be a military clash between the two sides in the seven years ahead. But history tells us the thinking is not appropriate,” Ma said, referring to the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan ahead of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

“It would be up to the leaders from the two sides,” Ma told reporters.

Seven percent of the survey’s respondents said they feared China’s victory would place Taiwan in an even worse situation in terms of managing a diplomatic distance with the mainland.

Fifty five percent of those polled said Taiwan should actively participate in the 2008 Beijing Olympics by offering contest venues.

But 17 percent said it would be better for Taiwan not to get involved in the Beijing Olympics as mainland China could use the Games to build up its “united-front” campaign against Taipei.

The government here was cautious in its reaction.

While government spokesman congratulated Beijing on the hard-won success, Vice President Annette Lu called on the public not to forget “communist China’s unfriendly attitude towards Taiwan while sharing the joy of their triumph.”

Some economic officials also doubted the potential business interests Taiwan might be able to gain from mainland China.

Local media said Taiwan businessmen in the mainland would benefit from an estimated US$200 billion worth of business linked to the Games.

The island’s computer giant Acer Inc., food giant Uni President Enterprises and Via Technologies were already geared up to share a piece of the business pie, the paper said.

Meanwhile, opposition Kuomintang legislator Mu Ming-chu asked the government to form a special task force to study ways to cope with mainland China’s proposal to let the Olympic torch pass through Taiwan when Beijing hosts the Games.

“In view of Beijing’s knack for ‘united front’ tactics, we must take precautionary measures to prevent mainland China from using the passage of the Olympic torch to downgrade the ROC’s status to a local level government under communist China’s jurisdiction,” Mu urged.

She further said the ROC government should refrain from making a rash response to Beijing’s proposal.

“My opinion is that the Cabinet should first set up a panel to study the issue and should also take the initiative to push mainland China to hold face-to-face talks with Taiwan over the issue,” Mu said. Mu said she looks forward to seeing the Olympic torch topic help resume the long-stalled dialogue between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Mu also urged mainland China to uphold the Olympic spirit of peace and promise not to use force against Taiwan.

“If Beijing renounces its attempt to use force against Taiwan, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can jointly welcome the advent of the 2008 Olympic Games,”Mu said, adding that if Beijing deliberately tries to downgrade the ROC’s sovereign status, the ROC government should stand firm in maintaining its national dignity.

“We should leave no room for the international community to misunderstand that the ROC is a local-level government,” Mu stressed.