Sun, Dec 21, 2008 - Page 1 News List

MOI clarifies status of officials’ visits to PRC

FEARS Legislators said relaxing the screening mechanism by which senior military and intelligence officials are allowed to visit China could threaten national security

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Senior military personnel will be allowed to visit China on some occasions if the government lifts its restrictions, Vice Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said yesterday, adding that certain checks would still remain in place to review applications.

Chien’s remarks corrected an announcement by Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) on Friday that the government would soon relax regulations on visits to China by senior civil servants, political appointees, top executives of state-owned enterprises and military personnel. At the time, Liu said the government would permit such personnel to go to China on business, for travel or other personal reasons “without the need to seek permission” from their superiors.

Under current regulations, military personnel are not allowed to visit China, while politically appointed public officials with the central government can only do so for international conferences or activities, or to conduct negotiations in China.

Chien said the relaxed restrictions would allow security officials, military personnel, officials posted overseas and personnel involved in research and development of secret technologies to visit China on official business, to visit sick relatives or to attend the funerals of close relatives. For their part, politically appointed public officials would be allowed to visit China for work-related business in addition to attending international activities, Chien said.

Reactions among Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers were mixed. While some approved of the government’s plan to lift the ban on military personnel, others expressed concern.

KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-min (帥化民) supported the idea, saying that the ban should not be imposed on military personnel whose work does not involve classified matters.

“The Ministry of National Defense already has regulations to keep close tabs on leaks,” he said. “Beside, going to China is not equal to committing treason. Anyone wanting to betray the country could do so without having to go to China.”

KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), however, said the government should retain the permission system.

“Applications by military personnel must be put under strict scrutiny,” he said. “Any opening-up policy in cross-strait relations is not as important as national security.”

At a separate setting, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said national security would face a severe threat if the government loosened the restrictions.

“Every government prioritizes intelligence and military security — except President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government,” Ker said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG AND CNA

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