Wed, Sep 29, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Chinese security chief’s visit kept secret

IN THE SHADOWSChen Zhimin met with officials from the ministries of justice and the interior and MAC, but their names and what they discussed have not been disclosed

By Vincent Y. Chao, Ko Shu-ling  /  J. Michael Cole and Shih Hsiu-chuan /STAFF REPORTERS

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers told the Taipei Times that the legislature had not been informed of Chen’s visit and said that as a democracy, the government had an obligation to let the public know the details of its cross-strait negotiations.

DPP Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said that if evidence of a cover-up were found, it would confirm widespread fears that the government was engaged in secret negotiations with China.

“Our concern is that this will become the norm,” he said. “There was no reason why the information could not have been released, and their excuses for covering it up are not good enough.”

DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) said the visit violated public accountability and said the specific nature of Chen’s talks should be made public.

“It’s a worrying trend ... these new types of secret exchanges are extremely harmful to Taiwan,” she said.

In a telephone interview, former MAC chief Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said the more the authorities tried to keep such visits secret, the more suspicious the public would become.

“It’s OK if the PSB [Public Security Bureau] is here in Taiwan to discuss joint crime fighting,” he said. “In fact, when the DPP was in power, we tried to work with the People’s Republic of China on that issue and took pride in those efforts.”

“Why hide it from the public, then?” he said, adding that if the discussions between the Chinese delegation and Taiwanese officials turned to such topics as combating “terrorism” — which in certain Chinese circles can be construed as including “separatism” — then such visits would be far more alarming.

The Presidential Office and the National Security Council refused to comment for this report, while the MAC described the visit as “nothing special.”

Tsai Ji-ru (蔡志儒), senior specialist in the council’s legal department, said such exchanges had become the norm since the two sides signed an agreement on mutual judicial assistance and cross-strait cooperation to fight crime in June last year.

Senior Taiwanese judicial officials have also visited China since the signing of the accord, he said.

Tsai said he did not know whether the two sides had agreed to wait until Chen had returned to China to make public the visit, because the NPA had organized the trip.

Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers Tsao ­Erh-chang (曹爾忠) and Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) applauded the visit, saying it would facilitate implementation of cross-strait agreements on crime-fighting and judicial cooperation.

Tsao, who was involved in signing the Kinmen Agreement 20 years ago — the first agreement dealing with cross-strait affairs to facilitate the bilateral repatriation of ­stowaways and illegal immigrants — said communications between officials from the two sides would help establish mutual trust.

Shrugging off criticism of the secrecy surrounding the visit, Tsao said examining how cross-strait agreements on crime prevention were implemented “was much more important” than whether Chen’s activities here were made public.

Lo said contacts between high-level officials from the two sides should not always be held “in the back room,” adding that there should be a certain degree of institutionalized transparency in their interactions.

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