The UK is concerned about judicial impartiality in the ongoing corruption case against former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), but expressed confidence that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was actively working toward the interests of Taiwan, said Michael Reilly, director of the British Trade and Cultural Office, at his farewell press conference yesterday.
Reilly questioned the practice of leaking information by prosecutors and those close to the trial leaking information as well as Chen’s detention before his trial.
“I think you really do need to ask yourself the question, does Chen really need to be detained without a trial? Is he really going to flee Taiwan?” he said, adding that he was not taking a position but that Chen, like all citizens, should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Chen is being detained for a second time over alleged graft and embezzlement during his presidential term. He has denied all charges.
The UK is pleased to see the recent rapprochement between Taipei and Beijing and welcomes any cross-strait deals reached with the consensus of the Taiwanese people to promote the mutual interests of both sides, Reilly said.
“What we would be much more nervous about would be if Taiwan was being pressured to take any course of action,” he said.
Ma takes a consistent stance of no talks on unification during his term and no negotiation of a peace treaty until more economic progress is made, he said.
Reilly said Taiwan should abolish capital punishment because the gesture could fully demonstrate its democratic maturity and set it apart from China.
He also urged timely passing of a legislative resolution on carbon dioxide reduction as the administration has publicly pledged.
Reilly said the British government takes its ties with Taiwan seriously and is mulling ways to make traveling to the UK easier for Taiwanese nationals in spite of Taiwan’s exclusion from its visa-waiver program.
He said the “only real area of concern” for London on extending visa-free privileges to Taiwan was that the biggest source of illegal immigration into the UK is China.
“There is a very real risk that if Taiwanese have free access to the UK, mainland Chinese gangs will then find Taiwanese passports a very attractive way of smuggling people into the UK. So before we can even contemplate a visa-waiver with Taiwan, we will have to be sure that we had a way that mainland Chinese could not get a hold of Taiwanese passports,” Reilly said.
Reilly described Taiwan as the “most enjoyable” foreign posting he has held.
David Campbell, a former Director of UK Trade and Investment in Singapore, will officially succeed Reilly on Feb. 3.