Thu, Oct 23, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Overseas Chinese compete at APEC

FOR AND AGAINST Using banquets and newspaper ads, overseas Chinese supporting China and Taiwan did their best to promote their man at the summit


While the Taiwanese and Chinese delegations jostled for good seats for their representatives at the just-concluded APEC summit in Bangkok, overseas Chinese communities loyal to both sides were playing their own game of one-upmanship.

When Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), who was representing President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), arrived in Bangkok on Saturday, the pro-Beijing overseas Chinese community put on a banquet to welcome Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), who arrived the day before.

Of the more than 200 Thai-based Taiwanese businesspeople and their spouses who showed up to welcome Lee and the Taiwanese delegation, many said that they had also been invited to attend Hu's banquet.

"I received an invitation to Hu's banquet," said Huang Sheng-yung (黃盛涌), president of Thai-Taiwan Business Association. "But I, on my own will, chose to come here to welcome Dr. Lee Yuan-tseh."

Huang, whose organization comprises more than 1,000 Thai-Taiwanese business chapters across Thailand, said that some chapter members had chosen to attend Hu's banquet.

"Everyone is entitled to make his or her own decision. You can't do anything about it," he said.

The overseas Chinese communities also took their battle to the newspapers.

On the day Hu arrived in Bangkok, pro-Beijing associations took out a four-page advertisement welcoming him in the World Daily, the largest Chinese-language newspaper in Bangkok. They bought another four-page ad the following day.

Not to be outdone, overseas Taiwanese groups bought four-page ads on Sunday and Monday to greet Lee and his delegation.

Taiwan's representative to Thailand, Paul Cheng (鄭博久), said that the overseas Taiwanese community in the country numbered around 140,000. The large number of Taiwanese living there means Taiwan is the Thailand's third largest investor, after Japan and the US, he said.

Cheng said that because many migrants from China had been in Thailand for many decades and now had Thai citizenship, it was hard to put a figure on the number of overseas Chinese there.

"I would say that the ratio between the pro-China and the pro-Taiwan overseas Chinese here is about 50-50," he said.

"Although most of these overseas Chinese communities pretty much have their stance set with regard to which side of the Taiwan Strait they identify with, that does not mean we stop working with them," Cheng said.

Cheng said that some communities refused to take sides and "would just post advertisements welcoming both Hu and Lee, and on other occasions such as Taiwan's and China's national days."

Even so, Cheng said the government takes great interest in the overseas Chinese communities.

"For example," he said, "we will visit Thai-based Taiwanese businesspeople's manufacturing facilities to show them that the Taiwan authority cares about them."

Cheng's office also awarded a certificate showing the government's appreciation to the Taiwanese community for donating 1,400 N95 masks during the SARS outbreak earlier this year.

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