Wed, Jan 26, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Chang recounts year's highs, lows

DIPLOMACY The Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission chief used a year-end press conference to review its activities and discuss a merger with the foreign ministry

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission Chairwoman Chang Fu-mei (張富美) was forced to cancel a trip to Sao Paulo after the Brazilian government rejected her visa application earlier this month because of pressure from China.

Chang said at a year-end press conference yesterday that she hoped to join an opening ceremony of the commission's five-story culture center in Sao Paulo. The commission has set up a number of such centers in countries that have big Taiwanese communities.

"I am happy to see the completion of the culture center in Sao Paulo, which offers a warm home to overseas Taiwanese in Brazil? We spent more than six years to plan and build the center. The process was difficult," Chang said.

The commission's worldwide campaigns to counter Beijing's activities to lure overseas Taiwanese to China's side over the years, Chang said, have caused Chinese officials to keep an eye on what she does and where she goes.

Noting Beijing now pays special attention to her, Chang said Malaysia barred her from attending a Taiwanese alumni club gathering in Kuala Lumpur last July.

"Usually the Malaysian government is good about resisting Beijing's pressure. However, as my trip to Kuala Lumpur was scheduled to take place shortly after Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's (李顯龍) visit to Taiwan, the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur was alarmed by my trip," she said.

She outlined the commission's major achievements over the past year, but acknowledged that the commission might have to merge with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the administration plans to downsize government agencies.

The commission has held two meetings with the ministry to discuss the merger plan, Chang said.

"The ministry somehow thinks that the commission would become a burden," she said.

Some government officials proposed abolishing the commission a few years ago, but President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) insisted that it be preserved, Chang said.

The commission has around 400 employees. Chang said she hoped two departments could be added to the foreign ministry to accommodate the commission's employees.

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