Sat, Sep 25, 1999 - Page 1 News List

Taipei accuses China of exploiting quake

CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS Although China has offered help, officials are saying Beijing has tried to take advantage of the situation in an ` inappropriate' way

By Irene Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Taiwan accused China yesterday of exploiting its misfortune in trying to assert sovereignty over the island and accused Beijing of slowing international aid efforts by political meddling.

"Their words and deeds violate international humanitarian principles ... and will be condemned and regarded with shame and regret by the international community," Foreign Minister Jason Hu said, referring to Beijing.

Taipei has thanked Beijing for its offers of aid, but has chafed at reports that it was expecting foreign countries to seek its blessing when dispatching emergency relief on the grounds that Taiwan was a province under Chinese sovereignty.

"In many cases this delayed foreign rescuers in carrying out their relief work in Taiwan," Hu said.

Taiwan's Red Cross urged international donors to contact Taipei directly -- not Beijing -- if they wanted to help.

Mainland Affairs Council deputy chairman Sheu Ke-sheng said China was "making political gestures at the expense of one country's disaster" and added: "This is extremely inappropriate."

Meanwhile, political commentators here said that while China is trying hard to "politicize" international humanitarian aid to Taiwan in the aftermath of earthquake, Taipei should seize the opportunity to help transform cross-strait relations.

Following the killer quake early Tuesday morning, Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) offered sympathy and assistance for Taiwan's "agony," saying that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are as "closely linked as flesh and blood."

However, China's goodwill gesture was replaced by a series of attempts to push its "one-China policy" among the international community during the past few days.

First came China's political meddling at the UN, which had delayed sending a relief mission to Taiwan while waiting for "permission" from China.

The UN's Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva reportedly decided to send a six-member team to help with relief efforts only after close consultation with China.

To make matters worse, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent his sympathies to the people of the "Taiwan province of China."

China's Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇) also took advantage of an opportunity during a UN meeting on Sept. 22 to promote its position that Taiwan is a part of China by expressing gratitude for international humanitarian aid "on behalf of the Taiwan people."

In addition, China's Red Cross chapter asked other international chapters to "consult" with it before they decided to offer help to quake-stricken Taiwan, and a Russian earthquake relief mission en route to Taiwan was forced to make a lengthy detour over Siberia because China refused to allow the Russian plane carrying the team to pass through its airspace.

In response to China's actions, Foreign Minister Jason Hu (胡志強) said yesterday that China is pursuing its own political agenda by taking advantage of Taiwan's disaster and characterized the action as "a robbery committed during a fire."

"Their behavior has violated international humanitarian principles," Hu said. "Such actions won't be accepted by the people of Taiwan, and they will be condemned by members of the international community."

Hu also criticized the way Annan worded his letter and said he filed a letter of protest with the UN.

Although some members of the international press, legislators and students have also protested against China's recent statements and actions, observers acknowledge that criticism is unlikely to come from official authorities of foreign countries.

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