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Fri, Feb 23, 2001 - Page 3 News List

China trips under close watch

FRATERNIZATION The recent spate of opposition party trips to China has resulted in a number of new guidelines for lawmakers and officials making the visits

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

The latest in a string of visits by opposition party politicians to China is slated for tomorrow when Taipei's deputy mayor, city councilors and a KMT lawmaker embark on a trip to Shanghai.

Unlike previous trips, however, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) this time has laid down a series of ground rules, dubbed the "Eight No's."

Among other things, the MAC is urging such visitors to not have any contact with China's central government, keep a low profile during their visit, refrain from signing any pacts and keep activities with government officials out in the open.

While it lacks the authority to punish those who violate the ground rules, the government's hardline approach highlights a growing concern that too many visits by public representatives could undermine its approach to cross-strait relations, political analysts said yesterday.

"The frequent visits to China recently by local government officials and lawmakers, though in a private capacity, have brought increased pressure on authorities to seek effective solutions concerning cross-strait issues," said Philip Yang (楊永明), a political science professor at National Taiwan University.

"It is obvious that by announcing these eight restrictions, the government intends to specifically regulate the do's and don'ts of these types of trips to China, and in doing so makes clear that the central government should be the real decision-maker on most issues."

The group will stay in Shanghai for six days to attend a forum on urban planning, which is co-sponsored by Taipei's Formosa Vitality Foundation (台灣生命力基金會) and the Development and Research Foundation in Shanghai (上海發展研究基金會).

Taipei Deputy Mayor Bai Hsiu-hsiung (白秀雄), a member of the group, promised to abide by the regulations during a press conference at the legislature yesterday, but urged the government to relax its highly constraining cross-strait policies.

"[Bai's appeal] is indicative of the differing views on cross-strait policies between the central and local governments," Yang said. "I don't think the ruling DPP should be too worried about these exchanges because [they] seem to be inevitable within the current political atmosphere; and to some extent, these contacts may facilitate in easing tensions between the two sides."

However, Hsu Szu-chien (徐斯儉), who specializes in Chinese politics at National Chengchi University's Institute of International Relations, warned that the government must be cautious when considering a relaxation of its cross-strait policies, given Taiwan's vulnerability in its relations with China.

"It is appropriate for local governments, opposition parties and the private sector to voice their opinions and push for a relaxation of regulations. But the government has to be very careful because any change in policy will affect the collective interests of the country," Hsu said.

The government has good reason to worry. Just a few weeks ago a KMT lawmaker from Matsu, Tsao Erh-chung (曹爾忠), traveled to China's Fujian Province and signed an agreement to improve private contacts between the two governments. News of the agreement between Tsao and officials in China came as a surprise to the public and even more so to government officials.

The government has considered punishing Tsao or local officials in Matsu, but have yet to make a final decision on the matter.

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