Sun, Mar 09, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Fujian provinces move beyond the political divide

HELPING HANDS Taiwan and China both have Lienchiang County governments and officials on both sides say they are focussed on cooperation

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Scattered around the mouth of China's Min River, the Matsu islands, made up of 19 islets, are governed by the Lienchiang County Government of Taiwan's Fujian Province.

Another group of islands approximately 12km away is also governed by the Lienchiang County Government (or Lianjiang as the Chinese is Romanized in China) -- but that of China's Fujian Province.

There are indeed two neighboring governing bodies each called the Lienchiang County Government.

"It is very interesting indeed because where would else you hear of two different governing bodies sharing the same name," said Matsu Lienchiang County Magistrate Chen Hsueh-sheng (陳雪生).

The seemingly bizarre situation is a legacy from 1949, when the KMT government in Taiwan continued to use the name Republic of China (ROC), while the Communist government in China established the People's Republic of China (PRC).

In terms of administrative zoning, Taiwan Province and that part of Fujian Province which encompasses Kinmen County and Lienchiang County are under the jurisdiction of Taiwanese authorities while the PRC governs the rest of Fujian Province.

The current chairman of Taiwan's Fujian Province Government is Yen Chung-cheng (顏忠誠). The post is filled by presidential appointment, with recommendation from the Executive Yuan.

Despite political tension between the governments of Beijing and Taipei, however, Chen said that interaction between his county and that of China's remains peaceful and friendly.

"We see each other as brothers," Chen said, adding that it is a sentiment shared by Zhang Tianjin (張天金), magistrate of China's Lienchiang County.

"When we interact with each other, we try not to talk about political matters," Chen said. "Even if such talks do come about in conversation, we will laugh it off."

Chen said that since the "small three links" were established in January 2001, the two counties have enjoyed frequent contact.

"We have conducted several cultural events during the year and holidays such as the recent Lantern Festival, during which cultural groups from Zhang's county will visit us and stage their performances," Chen said.

"I have several times led delegations to Zhang's county as well for study visits, conferences and the like."

Aside from cultural interactions, Chen said that both sides have also joined hands in rescuing crew members from sinking ships.

Despite the absence of any laws governing how to deal with such accidents, Chen said that people from the two sides have a tacit agreement on how to manage such incidents.

According to Chen, most Chinese vessels are not in good condition.

"We have offered a helping hand four or five times last year when Chinese vessels were spotted sinking by our fishermen."

"[The Chinese] are grateful for what we've done for them," Chen said. "They are very touched."

Late last month, residents of China's Lienchiang County had a chance to repay Chen's kindness, Chen said, when a Matsu-based cargo ship capsized in rough seas while sailing home from China.

Two crew members of the Ho Tai who were thrown overboard were rescued by a Chinese fishing vessel soon after the freighter capsized and sank.

The two were lucky enough to be spotted by the passing Chinese boat, which rescued them and took them to China for treatment.

"Upon receiving my call [regarding the accident], Zhang immediately mobilized his forces to join in the rescue effort," Chen said. "We greatly appreciate their help and agreed that there's no disagreeing when it comes to saving lives."

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