How Taiwan still hangs on to property in bits of China

    WORLD  18 May 2024 - 03:06

    The Economist has published an article claiming that reverence for a pre-Communist leader may make China stay its hand. Caliber.Az reprints the article.

    There are few places within China’s borders where displaying Taiwan’s national flag is allowed. One is the Sun Yat-sen Memorial House, a museum in Macau where more than a dozen Taiwanese standards are on display. Some are near the entrance and visible to pedestrians outside. There are also two enormous posters that declare Taiwan “the Heart of Asia” (a Taiwanese tourism logo). In a reading room one finds newspapers and magazines published by Taiwan’s government.

    There is a rather simple—yet surprising—explanation for all this. Even though China’s leaders in Beijing claim Taiwan as their own territory, Taiwan’s government can still own property in corners of Hong Kong and Macau. The Sun Yat-sen Memorial House is one such piece of real estate. It is devoted to the man who has been dubbed “the father of modern China”. Sun overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1911, occasionally using Macau as a base for his activities.

    The museum is a three-storey mansion built in 1931 as a residence for Sun’s first wife. (Sun died in 1925.) Yet from the outset it was owned by the Kuomintang (KMT), the party founded by Sun in 1912. It ruled most of the Chinese mainland from 1928 to 1949, fleeing to Taiwan following its defeat in China’s civil war. In 1958 the kmt, then running Taiwan as a dictatorship, opened up the old residence to tourists. Later on, after Taiwan became a democracy, the party handed the property to Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which now owns the museum through a holding company.

    Though Sun remains an icon of unity in China and Taiwan, leaders in Beijing may still be touchy about some of the museum’s displays. A grainy black-and-white photo shows Chiang Kai-shek, a KMT leader and once the Communists’ arch-nemesis. The English caption calls Chiang the “late president”, a title for him that is common in Taiwan but taboo in China. In another picture, Sun is seen inaugurating the Chinese Whampoa Military Academy, which still exists as modern Taiwan’s military college. The boo-words “Republic of China” can be spotted on a copy of an old gold-bond certificate from 1911.

    Yen Chen-shen of the National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, says the Taiwanese government worries that China may seize its properties. He is reminded of how the South Korean government, upon switching recognition from Taiwan to China in 1992, handed the Taiwanese embassy in Seoul to the mainland government. Taiwanese diplomats, who believed the building belonged to Taiwan, trashed it before leaving, according to Chinese state media. Sun, however, is so revered that even if China were to grab the museum, its current occupants would not dare to desecrate it.

    Caliber.Az

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