Thu, Feb 05, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Presidential Office denies Chow plans Sichuan visit

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Presidential Office yesterday dismissed a local media report that first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) would visit China in her capacity as honorary president of the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) told reporters that the Red Cross had not made such an arrangement nor planned to do so in the future.

Wang made the remark in response to media inquiries about a story in the latest issue of Next Magazine published yesterday.

The report quoted an anonymous source in an intelligence agency as saying that Chow was likely to visit Sichuan Province in August to donate NT$1.52 billion (US$47.5 million) on behalf of the Red Cross to fund reconstruction projects in the area devastated by an earthquake last May.

The report claimed Ma’s advisers were divided over the issue, with some hoping to see Beijing first extend some goodwill gesture by allowing Taiwan to participate in the World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting in May before they pushed a trip to China for Chow.

The Red Cross also issued a statement yesterday rejecting the report, saying that it had never received any instructions to make such arrangements or to engage in any negotiation on the issue, nor had it made any plans for Chow to visit China.

While the report suggested that Steven Chen (陳士魁), secretary-general of the Red Cross Cross Society of the Republic of China, was the person behind the plan, he denied the speculation yesterday, saying it was beyond the association’s power to handle cross-strait and foreign affairs, which were sensitive and political in nature.

Despite the Presidential Office’s comments, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus deputy secretary-general Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊櫻) said it would be a “positive move” for the first lady to visit China on behalf of an international organization.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG

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