Fri, Mar 08, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Ministry denies president applied for Swedish visa

HIGH-LEVEL VISIT Despite media reports that Sweden refused to give Chen a visa for fear of upsetting China, a MOFA official said no such application has been made

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIESTAIWAN YESTERDAY DENIED REPORTS THAT SWEDEN HAD REFUSED TO GIVE PRESIDENT CHEN SHUI-BIAN (陳水扁) A VISA FOR A PRI

"We have not made the application, so the reported refusal by the Swedish government to issue the visa does not exist," said Katharine Chang (張小月), spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"The foreign ministry does not have any plan to arrange for Chen to visit Sweden," Chang added.

Reported rejection

A Reuters report from Stockholm on Wednesday quoted a Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman as saying that the Swedish government had refused to give Chen a visa to avoid upsetting China.

"Such a high-level visit, even if private, would inevitably attract attention and that would not advance our relations with China -- neither would it further our existing trade and cultural links with Taiwan," said the spokeswoman, confirming similar remarks by Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh reported by local media.

Chang confirmed that Sweden's opposition Liberal Party had invited Chen as a guest speaker to its centenary party congress on March 15.

But Chang denied that Swedish Liberal leader Lars Leijonborg had applied for the visa for Chen.

Another foreign ministry official, who declined to be named, said that when the invitation reached Chen, Taiwan asked the Swedish Liberal Party to begin consultations with the Swedish government over the possibility of granting Chen a visa.

"Since we have learned that the Swedish government had reservations over the issue when consulted by the Liberal Party, we did not apply for the visa," the official said.

The DPP and the Swedish Liberal Party belong to Liberal International, a London-based association of liberal parties from more than 60 countries around the world.

Bowing to dictators

Leijonborg, in a statement on his party's Web site, criticized the government for "crawling in front of the dictators in Beijing."

"Taiwan's president is the democratically elected leader of 23 million people. It is shameful that he is not allowed to visit a party in another democratic country," Leijonborg said.

In November last year, first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) traveled to France to accept the 2001 Prize for Freedom awarded by Liberal International on behalf of Chen, who was barred by the EU from going himself.

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