The government owes the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) an apology for an article published by the state-owned Central News Agency (CNA) that “denigrated” the chairmanship of the de facto US embassy in Taiwan, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said yesterday.
The article in question, written by Stephen Chen (陳錫蕃), a leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) National Policy Foundation and the nation’s representative to the US between 1997 and 2000, was posted on the CNA Global Watch Web site on Friday last week.
“It was really inappropriate for Chen to write such an article, in which he looked down on several former AIT chairmen. Chen makes the AIT sound like it isn’t worth anything,” Tsai told the legislature’s Foreign and Defense Committee.
Tsai said Chen wrote the article “just because he was not happy with Nat Bellocchi,” a former AIT chairman whose name was among the 34 signatories of an open letter to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) voicing concern over possible political motives behind his administration’s moves against the DPP over the alleged disappearance of 36,000 official documents.
The signatories included academics and former government officials in the US, Europe, Canada and Australia, all long-term observers of the country’s democratic development. Bellocchi’s name appeared at the top of the list because the signatories were presented in alphabetical order.
“[Chen’s article] seriously damaged the US-Taiwan relationship. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must apologize to the AIT,” Tsai said, adding that Chen’s former position as envoy to Washington and the state-owned nature of the media that carried his article made it even more important that such an apology be made.
In his article, Chen says the AIT chairperson is a “figurehead” who lacks the real authority of an “imperial envoy,” adding that even the deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the US Department of State outranks the AIT chairperson.
The operations of the AIT do not even fall under the chairperson’s authority, Chen added.
CNA ran a news article on Tuesday on its news Web site promoting the article. Readers will know how to evaluate Bellocchi and the open letter to Ma after reading Chen’s article, CNA said in the article.
Contacted by the Taipei Times by telephone, AIT spokesperson Sheila Paskman said she had read the article, but that the AIT would not comment on the matter.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) said Chen was not an official at the ministry and that he had retired from civil service.
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