Tue, May 03, 2005 - Page 3 News List

MAC looks gift pandas in the mouth; says `no thanks'

CNA , TAIPEI

The government will not accept the pandas that China reportedly is planning to give Taiwan if Beijing attempts to downgrade Taiwan's status to become part of China through the gift, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said yesterday.

Wu made the remarks during a meeting of the Legislative Yuan's Home and Nations Committee in response to reports that the municipal government of Shanghai might offer to present two pandas to Taipei City in the name of city exchanges before a delegation led by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) concludes its visit in Shanghai today.

Wu pointed out that the issue of pandas coming to Taiwan has been discussed between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait on 10 occasions since 1992, including one instance when Beijing proposed sending the animals to Taiwan for exhibition.

None of those plans were realized mainly because of an assessment by the Council of Agriculture indicating that Taiwan lacks the ability to raise pandas, which are an endangered species, Wu said.

In Shanghai, KMT Secretary-General Lin Fong-cheng (林豐正) confirmed that Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) discussed the panda issue with Lien during their meeting last Friday and that Beijing authorities also mentioned the possibility of granting tariff-free treatment to some Taiwanese agricultural products while receiving the KMT delegation.

Lin said he believes Beijing will make an announcement of its decisions soon.

Also yesterday, the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po daily cited Xu Bodong (徐博東), a professor of Taiwan studies at Beijing Union University, as saying that it is "political obstacles," rather than technical problems, that is preventing Taiwan from accepting the pandas.

Xu said Shanghai is more suitable than Beijing to make the offer to Taiwan because the pandas are a gift for the people of Taiwan and a token of friendship between the cities of Shanghai and Taipei.

The gift can also promote exchanges between the Shanghai Zoo and Taipei Zoo, Xu said.

Xu claimed that judging from the climate, environment, food and technology in Taiwan, it is not inferior to any Chinese city in terms of ability to raise pandas.

Meanwhile, Pei Enle, deputy head of the Shanghai Zoo, told the paper that there is only one panda left in the zoo after the other one was loaned to the Memphis Zoo in the US.

Pei said it is quite unlikely that the zoo will give its only remaining panda to Lien and that the zoo has not received any notification concerning the matter.

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