Legislators across party lines yesterday criticized former minister of agriculture Paul Sun (孫明賢) after he was found to have served as a counselor for government-affiliated organizations in China.
The criticism came after a story in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) yesterday revealed that Sun earlier this month accepted a three-year appointment as honorary consultant to the Taiwan Agricultural Entrepreneurship Garden. The organization is funded by China’s Ministry of Agriculture.
Sun is chairman of the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center, a research center partially funded by the Taiwanese government that works with the Council of Agriculture (COA).
Sun was quoted as saying he was not involved in any COA meetings and that he would not be on China’s payroll, serving only as honorary counselor.
He said there was no need for him to notify the COA of his position in China because it was a personal matter, but he still submitted a copy of his letter of employment to Minister of Agriculture Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄).
At a press conference yesterday, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus said it was inappropriate for Sun to hold such a post in China.
“We feel it is inappropriate for Sun to be consultant to China’s Taiwan Agricultural Entrepreneurship Garden and the matter should be looked into,” caucus deputy secretary-general Hsiao Ching-tien (蕭景田) said.
Hsiao said the COA should investigate whether Sun had transferred agricultural technology to China, and if so, it should punish him.
KMT Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) said Sun might have violated regulations against conflict of interests for public officials.
“As a counselor to both sides [of the Taiwan Strait], which side’s interests will you defend?” Lee asked.
Lee urged Sun to resign from his position in China.
The Democratic Progressive Party caucus said it would propose that personnel working for government-funded agencies have their subsidies canceled if they work in China.
“This is undoubtedly a Chinese attempt to steal Taiwan’s agricultural technology. It will affect Taiwan’s developmental edge in agriculture, a severe problem that the government needs to prevent with increased management and regulations,” DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said.
Taiwan’s agriculture will be destroyed if agricultural experts like Sun work for China, he said.
DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) added that it was just another example of Chinese moves aimed at achieving unification.
“China wants us to lose our technology and talent, and cut off our agricultural advancement,” he said.
At a press conference yesterday, the COA said that since the KMT government came to power last year, regulations regarding cross-strait agricultural technology exchanges had not been loosened.
Meanwhile, Sun, told reporters that the contract was given to him by China’s Straits Agriculture Exchange Association, and not the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We shouldn’t see agricultural technology as sensitive material; instead, it should be a public asset. China has large stretches of land and a good plant diversity, and can be seen as an extension of Taiwan’s farmlands,” he said.
About 5,900 Taiwanese farmers or businessmen in the farming industry are in China, Sun said.
“If you view it positively, you can see it as helping Taiwanese farmers become more professional. If you view it negatively, then you can make many criticisms. From the positive side, I feel it is something worth promoting,” he said.
Taiwan’s agriculture should not be shut behind closed doors. Instead, people should open their minds to what is out there, he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG
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