Sun, Dec 28, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Local governments mull branch offices in China despite ban


Despite a ban on local governments opening representative offices in China, local authorities are studying feasible ways to handle growing exchanges across the Taiwan Strait.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said last week that the central government would not permit local governments to open offices in China at the present time because of Taiwan’s cross-strait policy, which forbids opening branch offices there, as well as considerations of the overall national interest.

Article 33 of the Act Governing the Relations between People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) states that Taiwanese individuals, groups or other organizations are barred from setting up “any form of cooperative ties” with administrative or political organizations of any Chinese district.

Local governments must not handle their affairs with China unilaterally and negotiations on issues that might infringe upon the central government’s authority must be settled by the MAC or the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation, MAC Vice Chairman Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) said.

However, local governments are seeking to establish a presence in China through different approaches such as by using farmers’ associations or forming special task forces to deal with increased two-way activities.

Kinmen County, which has maintained direct ferry services with the ports of Xiamen and Mawei in Fujian Province since 2001 and with Quanzhou in Fujian Province a few years later, created a mainland affairs section under its transportation and tourism bureau in 2004. Kinmen authorities are hoping to open an office in Xiamen, which lies opposite Kinmen, to deal with frequent exchanges between the two sides.

In central Taiwan, Nantou County is seeking to establish offices in China through local farmers’ associations, with Zhejiang Province being its first target, Nantou County Deputy Commissioner Chen Tze-ching (陳志清) said.

Once such a facility is set up in Zhejiang, Chinese from the province could have their items on hand as soon as they return home, without having to take them onboard airplanes — a measure that Chen said would be helpful in attracting Zhejiang tourists to Nantou.

Meanwhile, in northern Taiwan, Taoyuan County set up a unit in February to deal with foreign affairs, including those relating to China.

Yunlin County is also assessing the possibility of setting up “a mainland affairs bureau” to help promote sales of its agricultural goods to China.

In southern Taiwan, Kaohsiung County is planning to create a section in its civil affairs bureau aimed at handling foreign affairs, including those concerning China.

Hualien, Miaoli, Chiayi and Pingtung counties, although not projecting to set up a permanent unit for that purpose at present, said they would consider doing so in the future, if cross-strait exchanges further increase.

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