Sun, Oct 19, 2003 - Page 1 News List

China snubs APEC-talks delegation

COLD SHOULDER One Taiwanese official said the refusal to meet at the conference was a swipe at President Chen's call for a new constitution in 2006

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN BANGKOK

China's APEC delegation has delivered an apparent snub to President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) push for a new constitution by refusing to meet with its Taiwanese counterpart.

The move is in sharp contrast to last year's conference when a ministerial bilateral meeting was held between China's Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Shi Guangsheng (石廣生) and Taiwan's Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Yi-fu (林義夫).

Speculation was rife yesterday that this year's snub is a criticism of Chen's plan to write a new constitution in 2006, the 20th anniversary of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Chen's proposal drew flak from the pro-unification Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP), which lambasted the proposal as an attempt to move toward independence.

A member of the Taiwanese delegation, who wished to remain anonymous, said that China's refusal to hold a ministerial bilateral meeting with the Taiwanese this year was a result of Chinese President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) wish to keep a low profile.

This attitude had led the Chinese government to proceed conservatively, especially in sensitive cross-strait issues, the official said.

DPP Legislator Parris Chang (張旭成), who is the only lawmaker from Taiwan accompanying the delegation, said he didn't think China's refusal had much to do with Chen's constitution call.

"Rather, it is the Chinese authority's approach to Taiwan -- in view of Taiwan's upcoming presidential election next year -- that it wants to downplay all possible contact with the DPP administration.

"By refusing to hold ministerial bilateral meetings with the Taiwanese delegation, China is attempting to sideline the legitimacy of Taiwanese authority," he said.

Chang, however, said that China's APEC snub would only end up helping Chen's re-election bid next year.

KMT Chairman Lien Chan(連戰) is teaming up with his PFP counterpart James Soong (宋楚瑜) to challenge Chen in March's elections.

"By continuing to obstruct or boycott Taiwan, China will only prove to the Taiwanese public that Chen's remark about China is true," Chang said, alluding to statements made by Chen earlier this month in an interview with the Washington Post.

Chen told the newspaper that Beijing had been giving "clandestine assistance" to both the KMT and the PFP.

Chang said, "China has yet to realize that its disrespectful treatment of Taiwan will only ended up irking the Taiwanese public more."

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