The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday said that a planned visit by former National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Su Chi (蘇起) to the Boao Forum in China next month could be the opening of another unaccountable negotiating channel.
“The DPP believes that cross-strait negotiations should be carried out within a governmental framework and be subject to legislative accountability,” DPP spokesperson Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said a day after Su, a close confidant of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), confirmed reports that he would attend the three-day annual forum in Hainan Province as a senior consultant for the Taiwan-based non-profit Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation.
Critics, including the DPP, say that Su’s visit should come under public scrutiny because of the national security concerns arising from his previous post.
Su resigned early last month, citing family and health reasons.
“We have concerns that Su’s visit will be used to create a second negotiation channel for Ma [that will add to] the already unaccountable links between the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] and the Chinese Communist Party,” Tsai said.
The DPP said it also feared that the specific reason behind Su’s visit was to launch negotiations on cross-strait military exchanges.
At press time, Su did not appear on a list of confirmed speakers and guests published by the organizers.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office last Wednesday expressed support for talks on cross-strait military confidence-building measures.
“Su expressed his intention to visit the forum immediately after China’s announcement. It’s clear that people will question the ‘special purpose’ of his visit,” Tsai said.
The Statute Governing the Relations Between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例) states that public servants who have been involved with sensitive matters, including national security, diplomacy, national defense, intelligence and cross-strait affairs, must first obtain permission from the National Immigration Agency (NIA) before visiting China.
The duration of the period during which retired officials are required to obtain permission is usually three years, but decisions are made at the discretion of government agencies, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Deputy Minister and spokesman Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) said yesterday.
The forum was the event that hosted a historic meeting between then vice president-elect Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in April 2008. One of the stated aims of the annual conference is to promote regional economic integration.
Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) told an Internal Administration Committee meeting yesterday that the ministry had yet to receive Su’s application for permission to travel to China.
“As far as I know, we have not yet received an application from Su,” Jiang told legislators.
DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) asked Jiang if it was too late for Su to file an application because, according to the law, the application should be filed at least three weeks prior to the date of departure. The Boao Forum opens on April 9, less than three weeks from now.
“Yes, in general, you need to file an application three weeks in advance, but there are cases in which exceptions have been made when it’s an emergency,” Jiang said.
However, since the Boao Forum is an annual event that serves as a communication channel between the KMT and the CCP, Chiu said it certainly did not constitute an “emergency.”
Jiang said that applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and that at present he was in no position to say whether Su’s application would be approved.
“Filing an application [to travel to China] within a month after leaving office is something we haven’t encountered before,” he said. “Of course we’re not obliged to approve it.”
DPP Legislator Chien Chao-tung (簡肇棟) said he suspected Su was on a secret assignment to serve as a messenger between Ma and Hu.
This is not something that falls under the ministry’s jurisdiction and therefore I cannot comment on this, Jiang said.
Liu said that if Su were granted permission to go to China, he believed Su would “exercise his best judgment” and not leak state secrets.
While the council would never bar Su from going to China, he must nevertheless obtain permission from the NIA. Once approved, Su can visit China, where he must conduct his activities in accordance with the stated purpose of his visit, he said.
Liu said Su’s planned visit to China would be legal if he completed the application.
As to whether Su would leak national secrets to the Chinese during the trip, Liu said he believed Su would exercise his best judgment.
Meanwhile, Liu dismissed speculation that the council was opposed to plans by Taipei City to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Shanghai on cooperation in culture and the environment.
Liu said he was aware that Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng (韓正) intends to visit Taiwan next month, but the information he received did not mention anything about his plan to sign an MOU with Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌). Liu said the council does not comment on, let alone oppose, things that do not exist.
The Chinese-language United Daily News reported yesterday that the council had expressed “different opinions” on the title of the document and the status of the city to be used in signing the MOU.
The report said Han was scheduled to lead a delegation to visit Taiwan from April 6 to April 9. The main purpose of the visit will be to promote the Shanghai World Fair and visit venues at the Flora Expo, which will be held in Taipei in November.
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