Sat, Nov 15, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Pro-independence group says Kiribati may be litmus test

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) yesterday told a pro-independence alliance the government is working hard to try to make the country's embassy in Kiribati the first Taiwanese embassy to bear the name "Taiwan."

Holding a 45-minute closed-door meeting with members of the Alliance to Rectify the Name of Taiwan, Chien said using "Taiwan" in the title of the country's embassy in Kiribati is a goal his ministry was pressing for.

The alliance, one of the main organizers of recent rallies calling for a change of the country's name, held several talks with Chien over the name-change issue.

Prior to the meeting, Chien accepted two placards from the alliance. The placards read "Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office in the US" and "Taiwan Affairs Bureau in Hong Kong."

Four national policy advisors, Ng Chiao-tong (黃昭堂), Huang Hua (黃華), Chuang Po-lin (莊柏林) and Huang Tien-lin (黃天麟), were present during the meeting.

As most of Taiwan's overseas representative offices use the country's capital, Taipei, in their name, alliance members urged Chien to keep the promise made by his vice minister, Michael Kau (高英茂), to change the offices' names.

During a legislative session last month, Kau said the ministry would try to change at least half of the country's overseas representative offices' names to "Taiwan" within a year.

Chien responded to the alliance's request by saying the name change was only possible when countries hosting Taiwan's representative offices agree to do so.

"We cannot change the representative offices' names because our government unilaterally desires to do so," Peter Wang (王獻極), coordinator of the alliance, quoted Chien as saying.

As for the alliance's demand that the government adopt the name "Taiwan" when presenting the country's bid to join the UN next year, Chien said the request would be difficult to achieve, given the international situation surrounding Taiwan's status.

Describing the alliance's previous meetings with Chien to push for the country's name change as "explosive," Wang said yesterday's meeting was relatively calm.

"We perceive the ministry's attitude toward the name change issue has shifted. They are really working toward the goal. This is partly because they know the will of the people is behind the change," Wang said.

Wang was referring to a massive rally on Sept. 6 co-organized by the alliance and led by former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). Around 150,000 people joined the rally.

"Taiwan is our country, the beautiful name of our common mother. But people living on this land have been bringing her shame over the past 400 years," a statement issued by the alliance said.

The statement noted Taiwan has been humiliating itself by attempting to enter the UN using "the Republic of China [ROC]" as the nation's name over the past decade.

Taiwan will never succeed in the bid if it keeps trying to use the name ROC in its bid to join the UN, the statement added.

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