Tue, Jan 30, 2001 - Page 17 News List

Council accepts lawmaker's action

STRAIT TALK After a lawmaker from Matsu signed an unofficial pact with officials in China, the Mainland Affairs Council said the move was in line with policy

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Mainland Affairs Council (陸委會) said yesterday that Matsu lawmaker Tsao Erh-chung (曹爾忠) had not stepped on the council's toes when he signed an agreement with Chinese officials promoting cross-strait exchanges.

Tsao on Sunday led a small delegation of Matsu officials to the Chinese coastal town of Mawei, located 60km from Taiwan's tiny military outpost, to sign an agreement with local officials strengthening economic and personal exchanges between the two sides (加強民間交流與合作協議).

Under the "small three links" (小三通) plan -- allowing trade, transport and communication links between China and Taiwan's outlying islands -- Mawei is the only Chinese port city that ships from Matsu can sail to directly.

The council released a statement yesterday saying that although it had not authorized the move, it approved of Tsao's actions as they "were a people-to-people initiative to promote the `small three links.'" Indeed, Tsao asserted that as a private undertaking there was no need to seek the approval of the council, which charts the government's China policy, saying only the approval of the Chinese side to the agreement was required.

The statement stressed that it agreed to Tsao's position that he had taken the step as a representative of Matsu and not as an authorized representative of the government to help bolster ties. "The agreement was unofficial and non-governmental," said the council. "Any negotiations and their outcomes must be authorized by the council for them to have legal bearing," it said.

Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) met with Tsao yesterday to gain a deeper understanding of the agreement and told reporters after that the move had not violated any law or sidestepped the authority of her office.

Unofficial agreement

* On Sunday, Tsao Erh-chung led a small delegation to Mawei on the coast of China.

* Tsao signed an agreement with Mawei officials in an effort to boost economic ties.

* On Monday Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council issued a statement saying that although the move was un-official, it was acceptable.

"This kind of spontaneous interaction between the two sides are not considered official and therefore have no legal bearing," Tsai said.

However, Tsai stressed that official negotiations on cross-strait trade matters must be conducted by the central government unless it authorizes other parties to do so on its behalf.

Besides media speculation on whether Tsao's actions usurped the authority of the central government, signing of the agreement further generated headlines due to its taking place under the "one China" banner.

But Tsao dismissed suggestions of a cave-in to the "one China" which the new government refuses to recognize. "The principle has long been part of the nation's constitution and many agreements signed between private groups across the strait are done so under this principle," Tsao said.

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