Thu, Aug 23, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Time for MOFA to clean house

Earlier this month, the Government Information Office (GIO) announced a plan to launch an international TV channel to promote Taiwan as well as offer accurate information to the world on issues concerning Taiwan.

The move is understandable, as often international media coverage of Taiwan is tainted with "China-centric" sentiment generated by correspondents who write their stories about this country from their offices in Beijing.

But before the government ventures into this new project -- set to start next year with a budget of NT$2 billion -- it is advised to first look at its existing organizations that whether these Taiwanese missions abroad have effectively utilized their resources to promote Taiwan's stance and image to the world.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the country has more than 50 missions in countries that do not have formal diplomatic ties with Taipei.

Referred to as the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Offices (TECOs), the missions are staffed with personnel dispatched by the ministry along with some staff from agencies such as the GIO, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Economic Affairs.

But how efficiently have these missions been serving Taiwan?

A quick look at the TECO Web sites reveals that a number of pages have not been updated for months. Some sites claim to offer downloadable information for Taiwanese expatriates, but the material couldn't be downloaded properly at all.

The poor maintenance and service of this very basic form of providing information leads one to wonder whether the taxpayers' money has gone to waste.

How can these missions transmit timely and correct information on issues concerning Taiwan to their host countries when they can't even provide decent service to Taiwanese expatriates and students living abroad?

These substandard services frequently make Taiwanese expatriates feel discouraged, frustrated and even betrayed by their own representatives. After these expatriates have gone all out to campaign for Taiwan's causes in their adopted countries, they see their own diplomats undermining their efforts by using such phrases as "we Chinese ... our Chinese culture" in their speeches.

Many vividly remember the unacceptable conduct from Taiwan's former representative to Singapore, Hu Wei-jen (胡為真). In an interview with Singapore's Lianhe Zaobao last month, Hu demeaned the government and said he did not agree with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government's "de-Sinification" campaign.

Hu's conduct sets a poor example for civil servants and constitutes a serious breach of protocol for any serving diplomat by disrespecting his own country.

One does not know how many diplomats like Hu are out there sabotaging Taiwan's national efforts under the cover of being a "diplomat," but so long as they are paid by taxpayers' money, they are subject to public scrutiny.

It is time to clean house, MOFA, and make the missions abroad more efficient and effective promoters of Taiwan.

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