Tue, Jul 01, 2014 - Page 1 News List

MAC admits it picked controversial venue

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chang Hsien-yao, right, and officials from the Ministry of the Interior and the National Police Agency are questioned by Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers at the legislature yesterday about Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun’s recent trip to Taiwan.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

The decision for Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) to meet with China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) on Friday at the Sizihwan Sunset Beach Resort was made by the council, despite several warnings from the Greater Kaohsiung Government about security concerns over the venue, council Deputy Minister Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said yesterday.

The strong protests that greeted Zhang at the resort led to the cancellation of several events scheduled for the final day of his trip, and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had tried to blame the municipal government for the disruptions.

Although protesters trailed Zhang throughout his four-day visit, the fiercest protests were in Greater Kaohsiung. Not only was there bloodshed during clashes between protesters and the police, some protesters were able to get close enough to splash white paint on Zhang’s motorcade and security personnel.

As he left on Sunday evening for a state visit to Panama and El Salvador, Ma said that the Greater Kaohsiung Government had picked the resort, despite security concerns.

However, during a meeting hosted by the Democratic Progressive Party caucus at the Legislative Yuan to which officials from the council and the National Police Agency were invited to make a presentation on Zhang’s visit, Chang said the council made the decision.

“It was the Mainland Affairs Council that chose the beach resort as the meeting venue, and we immediately contacted the Greater Kaohsiung Police Department, asking it to evaluate whether the location had any security concerns,” Chang said. “We also asked the National Police Agency to make an assessment, and both the agency and the Kaohsiung police told us several times that there were no problems. We trusted their professional assessments.”

While Chang did not respond positively to questions from DPP Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) on whether the municipality had warned the council about possible security concerns, the council’s planning department director, Hu Ai-ling (胡愛玲), said that the council did receive at least two warnings from Greater Kaohsiung Deputy Mayor Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) and Greater Kaohsiung Research, Development and Evaluation Commission Chairman Syu Li-ming (許立明) that there could be security loopholes due to the venue’s landscape and its proximity to National Sun Yat-sen University.

Many students from the university took part in the Sunflower movement’s occupation of the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber in March during protests against the cross-strait service trade agreement.

Lawmakers also voiced concerns over the police’s handling of protesters and journalists.

Activists who had checked into a room at the Novotel at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Tuesday, were forcibly evicted from the room and prohibited from leaving the premises before Zhang arrived at the hotel on Wednesday for a meeting with Wang.

On Thursday, a reporter from the online news outlet NewTalk.tw, Lin Yu-yo (林雨祐), covering protesters trying to block Zhang’s motorcade from entering New Taipei City’s Wulai District (烏來) was threatened by police, who told him he risked arrest if he did not leave the scene immediately, even though he showed his press passes issued by the Legislative Yuan and the council for Zhang’s visit.

On Saturday, police asked customers at a restaurant next to a temple in Changhua County’s Lukang Township (鹿港) to leave ahead of a scheduled visit by Zhang to the temple, which was later canceled.

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