Thu, Nov 15, 2007 - Page 1 News List

China returns mail with `UN for Taiwan' postmark

AGENCIES , BEIJING

China said yesterday it had returned all mail and parcels found with a postmark supporting Taiwan's entry into the UN because the wording promotes independence.

"Taiwan authorities preaching `Taiwan independence' through postal services has infringed on Taiwan compatriots' freedom of communication," said Fan Liqing (范麗青), a spokeswoman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office.

"This has seriously impaired the exchanges of letters between people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, as well as Taiwan people's exchanges with other parts of the world," Fan told reporters.

The "UN for Taiwan" postmarks are part of a campaign ahead of a referendum planned in March on whether Taiwan should apply to join the UN under the name Taiwan instead of its official title the Republic of China.

The slogan also appears on public posters and on some shop receipts, sometimes along with a picture of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Media reports earlier this month said Chinese authorities demanded recipients of letters stamped with the logo, mostly the 1 million Taiwan businesspeople based in China, sign a statement denouncing the UN bid to receive them.

But Fan said they were merely sent back.

"Letters of this kind have been returned according to regulations," she said.

Taiwan Post Co said 152 letters stamped with the mark were returned between Oct. 1 and Nov. 13 from China.

It said the mark only goes on the letters of those who agree to have it, adding that the postmark will remain available until Dec. 31.

In response, the Mainland Affairs Council issued a statement last night lashing out at the Chinese government, saying that putting postmarks on letters did not violate international conventions.

The council urged Beijing to abide by international practice and deliver the mail to recipients instead of intercepting and returning it to senders.

"It is common for countries to put commemorative postmarks or logos on mail," the statement said.

The council called on China to stop such an "uncivilized practice" and promote the "freedom of communication" between people on both sides of the Strait.

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan

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