Fri, Jan 02, 2009 - Page 3 News List

MOFA mulls easing rules on meeting Chinese officials

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is considering a new policy to loosen restrictions on interaction between Taiwanese and Chinese officials abroad, a senior MOFA official said yesterday under the condition of anonymity.

The policy, the official said, coincided with the nature of the administration’s “diplomatic truce” — a ceasefire proposed by Taiwan with Beijing on luring each other’s allies.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) proposed the truce last May when he entered office. To date, Beijing has not publicly acknowledged the diplomatic ceasefire, but Taiwan maintains that China has shown signs of slowly acquiescing to the truce.

The MOFA official said the relaxed policy would permit Taiwanese foreign service officials to mingle with their Chinese counterparts and Chinese media, under the condition that the officials did not meet in private but only in public.

Taiwanese foreign service personnel, including heads of representative offices and embassies, would also be permitted to give interviews to the Chinese press.

In the past, it was an unspoken rule that Chinese and Taiwanese officials did not appear at the same setting, such as receptions or parties. Taiwanese foreign officials were also instructed not to be too friendly with Chinese officials, he said.

The new policy, he said, did not mean Taiwanese officials could go to a “Chinese official’s house for dinner.”

It has been rumored that some Chinese officials stationed in Africa and the West Asia region have invited Taiwanese officials to their residences for private meals.

“That would be totally unacceptable,” the MOFA official said, adding that the diplomatic truce did not mean letting your guard down without any reservations and that the officials still needed to be careful to avoid being “framed.”

The policy is expected to be submitted to the Executive Yuan for a review early this year.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) criticized the policy as a “useless brown-nosing, self-degrading” tactic that would only put Taiwan’s diplomatic future in grave jeopardy.

“Almost the entire international community recognizes Beijing as the sole legitimate government to represent China. [Relaxing the restriction] will only give others the impression that Taiwan is agreeing to return to China,” he said.

He said he feared Taiwanese MOFA officials abroad might eventually let their guard down, which would harm Taiwan’s international status and image.

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