Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Businesspeople deny oppression claims

POLITICALLY SENSITIVE China-based Taiwanese businesspeople yesterday denied that China put pressure on them not to return home for the Dragon Boat Festival

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN ILAN

The government-hosted conference for China-based Taiwanese businesspeople over the past two days to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival turned into a tug-of-war between Taiwan and China to compete for the businessmen's support.

The semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) said that, due to pressure from China, many Taiwanese business leaders in China dared not come home for the conference. This claim was nonetheless denied by most conference participants.

The conference, held in Ilan on Wednesday and yesterday, saw a decline in the number of participants compared to previous years. Presidents of Taiwanese businesspeople's associations in Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen did not attend the event.

Participants in the conference joined tours to several popular tourist destinations in Ilan and visited the Ilan County Government, which wishes to attract investments.

Officials from the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and the SEF said they encountered great difficulties in inviting the businesspeople to the conference but thanked those who resisted China's pressure to come home.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chang Ching-fang's (張清芳) report on China's maltreatment of pro-DPP Taiwan-ese businesspeople on Wednesday further fueled the already politically sensitive atmosphere.

Premier Yu Shyi-kun and a group of government officials, including MAC Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Minister of Economic Affairs Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) and Vice Minister of Transportation and Communications Oliver Yu (游芳來), traveled to Ilan to meet with the businesspeople.

Wu said he has read Chang's report but could not confirm whether it was true. Related government agencies are investigating abuses Chang reported, he said.

But businesspeople from Guangdong, where the alleged abuses took place, dismissed Chang's report as exaggerated.

Wu said the changed investment environment in China may make doing business there more risky. The government will encourage China-based businesspeople to divert their investments in China back to Taiwan or to other countries to reduce the risks, he said.

Many businesspeople at the conference expressed the hope that cross-strait relations would remain stable. Their businesses suffer when hostility between China and Taiwan increases partly because the two sides' negotiations are all suspended, leaving many problems unsolved.

Wu reiterated the government's commitment to establish a peace and stability framework for cross-strait communication and appealed to China to treat the Taiwan issue with empathy.

Yu told the businesspeople that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has been very clear about what he can and cannot do in handling relationships with China.

Addressing the businesspeople's concerns that Chen may provoke China again, the premier said Chen wants to concentrate on domestic constitutional reform during his second term.

"President Chen has shifted his focus to creating a youthful, energetic and efficient government ? He is thinking about Taiwan's historical status and what he can do for the coming generations," Yu said.

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