The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) was cool yesterday to demands from students, academics and publishers to lift the ban on publications from China.
"If the local publishing industry can convince me that it can overcome the cutthroat competition from China, we may consider adjusting related regulations," MAC Vice Chairman Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said.
"We won't rush to lift the ban until a complete plan is drawn up to ensure equal and reciprocal publication exchange across the Taiwan Strait."
Chen made the remark during a public hearing organized by the Government Information Office (GIO) yesterday afternoon.
GIO Director-General Arthur Iap (葉國興) held the event to respond to questions from lawmakers Chien Chao-tung (簡肇棟) of the DPP and Pang Chien-kuo (龐建國) of the PFP on Thursday.
The two lawmakers questioned the GIO's recent strengthening of the rules banning the sale of publications from China.
Article 37 of the Statute Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例) stipulates that publications, films, videos, broadcasts and TV programs from China may not enter Taiwan, be published, be put into circulation, or be produced or broadcast in Taiwan without government permission.
Violators face a fine of between NT$40,000 and NT$200,000 and the confiscation of such products.
Article 4 states that four categories of publications from China are banned from entering the Taiwan area. The categories are those advocating communism, those undermining public order or well-accepted practices, those infringing on Taiwan's laws or regulations and those bearing China's emblems.
In addition, article 9 states that those publications from China allowed to be published in Taiwan must be modified from the simplified form of Chinese characters to traditional characters.
Attorney Yu Ying-fu (尤英夫) said that, although he supports the idea of opening up the local market, certain problems need to be addressed.
"The government has to take into account national security, the protection of local publishers' rights as well as the demands of consumers when contemplating adjustments to the regulations," he said.
Lai Ting-ming (賴鼎銘), a professor at the Department of Library and Information Studies at Shih Hsin University (世新大學), said that the government should abolish article 37 altogether and open up the local market as soon as possible.
"It's a shame to let political ideologies get in the way of ... academic research," Lai said.
Lai added that it is to the advantage of Taiwan's academic and publishing communities to import publications from China because the translation business and academic research there is flourishing.
"As a university professor, I'd like to obtain the latest information as soon as possible. As the director of a university library, I'd like to provide my clients with the most comprehensive collections possible," Lai said.
Representing students, Lee Chen-pang (李鎮邦) of National Taiwan University's Mainland China Society called on the government to put academic interests before commercial interests.
"It just doesn't make sense to deny us access to books written in the simplified form of Chinese characters or translated by Chinese writers," Lee said.
Hong Chen-kuo (洪禎國), an instructor at the National Taipei College of Business (國立台北商業技術學院) who has spent about NT$30,000 on publications from China, said that it is unnecessary to change the form of Chinese characters because it is easy to adjust to the simplified form.