Fri, Jul 11, 2003 - Page 3 News List

First lady plans `private' trip to Europe this month

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Presidential Office said yesterday that first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) will visit Germany and the Vatican, where she will attend a series of cultural activities and meet with Pope John Paul II on July 20 as President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) special representative.

"Invited by Germany's Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle and the Foundation for Prussian Cultural Property, the first lady will lead a delegation that will set out on July 15 to Berlin. They will stay in the city for four days, mainly to attend the opening ceremony for an exhibition of artifacts from the National Palace Museum," said Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office.

"She will also meet with honored guests from various European countries during the ceremony," Wu said, adding that the trip is considered a private, cultural tour, although the itinerary is being made public.

Wu said the schedule of Wu's Berlin visit includes some political contacts, such as going to the German parliament and meeting with lawmakers.

"The first lady will accept invitations from human rights organizations, which expect to honor her contributions to democracy and freedom," Joseph Wu said.

Wu Shu-chen will travel to Rome on July 19 and proceed to the Vatican, the only European state that has diplomatic relations with Taiwan. She will meet with ethnic-Chinese religious leaders and expatriates. She will also attend a music concert performed by Taiwanese students in Italy.

Wu is scheduled to return to Taiwan on July 23.

As for meeting with the Pope, Joseph Wu said the pontiff is at his summer palace and normally does not receive guests at this time, but thanks to the efforts of Taiwan's diplomats, the first lady is scheduled to visit the summer palace on July 20 as a special representative of the president and will congratulate the Pope on the 25th anniversary of his papacy.

Wu Shu-chen will also preside over the opening ceremony of the exhibition "Treasures of the Sons of Heaven: The Imperial Collection from the National Palace Museum."

It will be the third National Palace Museum exhibition in Europe. The first was in London in 1935 and the second was in Paris in 1998.

Joseph Wu said Wu Shu-chen obtained her visas for the trip yesterday afternoon, despite China's harassment.

Germany has promised to ignore China's pressure.

After lengthy negotiations, the National Palace Museum and Germany's Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle agreed last year to hold exhibitions in Berlin and Bonn.

Meanwhile, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) plans to visit Central and Southern America in the middle of August. Lu will visit Panama and Paraguay, where she will attend the inauguration ceremony for the country's president. She also plans to visit one country lacking diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Lu will have stopovers in Hawaii, Seattle, New York and Los Angeles.

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