Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Presidential Office reopens to public after three-month security precaution

LIBERATION All those gifts presented to President Chen Shui-bian when he was inaugurated will finally be put on show in parts of the building once closed to the public

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Presidential Office will reopen to visitors on Monday after more than three months' closure for security reasons, and will exhibit gifts from foreign countries that were presented since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was inaugurated in May 2000.

"Security concerns about the president and the vice president" no longer justify restricting the public's access to the building, Presidential Office spokesman Chen Wen-chaung (陳文宗) said.

"We have removed the restrictions and retrained 116 volunteers as tour guides, and groups can apply for tours in advance," he said.

Chen opened the building to the public during his first term with the goal of "being friendly to the people," and sought to "liberate" parts of the building that were closed to the public throughout the Martial Law era.

Following the March 20 presidential election, supporters of the opposition alliance besieged the Presidential Office area with a series of protests. When some of these crowds tried to rush into the Presidential Office, the government closed the building to tours.

The Presidential Office will welcome the public every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 9am and noon.

"The reopening's main theme is to exhibit gifts from other countries given on the occasion of President Chen's second inauguration," the spokesman said. Another exhibit focuses on Penghu, he said.

Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers recently accused the Presidential Office of improperly administering foreign and domestic gifts to Taiwan's presidents.

"How could former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) collect those gifts, which actually belong to the government, and store them at a private warehouse?" said Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator.

According to the Presidential Office, the gifts presented during Lee's 12 years as president are stored at a military base in Tashi, Taoyuan County, and the gifts presented during Chen's first term are stored in Sanhsia, also in Taipei County.

"The regulations for administering gifts from foreign and domestic donors were passed last January," said Presidential Office official Li Chin-fa (李金發), "and after the government completes its compliance with these regulations, those gifts will be handed over to Academia Historica," Li said.

According to the regulations, gifts worth more than NT$3,000 must be registered and preserved. There were 1882 gifts presented during Chen's first term, while officials said the number of gifts presented during Lee's tenure as president is not known.

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