Wed, Jul 29, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Ministry defends Ou's letter to US foundation

By Jenny W. hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday insisted that its chief, Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊), who also serves as the vice chairman of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, did nothing wrong when he penned a letter to the president of the US-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) without first notifying the chairman of the foundation, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

MOFA acting spokesman James Chang (章計平) said Ou did not need to seek Wang's authorization before writing a letter to NED president Carl Gershman because Ou was acting in his capacity as the foundation vice chairman.

The ministry made the comments in response to a media report that Ou had been out of line when he wrote the letter without Wang's approval.

In May, Gershman wrote a letter to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) urging him not to interfere with the foundation's structure and policies after it was reported that under Beijing's influence, the Ma administration planned to make major changes to the foundation's governing board and to prevent it from offering financial support to pro-democracy movements in China, Tibet and Cuba.

“It has come to my attention through reports in the press that broad changes are being proposed for the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. I am concerned that such an overhaul could well compromise both the Foundation's independence and the quality of its work,” Gershman wrote.

In the letter dated June 29, Ou said the personnel reshuffle reflected the current political balance in Taiwan and that it was carried out in a democratic manner. Ou cited Article 8 of the foundation's charter, which states that half of the board members must come from political parties that hold 5 percent or more of the seats in the Legislative Yuan. As such, the TFD board changes after each legislative election, he wrote.

Ou also appealed to the US to respect the sovereignty and the rule of law in different countries. He said he hoped that the NED would show similar deference to Taiwan's due process.

Speaking yesterday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), of the legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee, said Ou should have notified the speaker before writing the letter.

“The organic laws [of the foundation] do not state that the vice foundation chairman should not write letters to personnel abroad or should notify the chairman before doing so, but it would have been more courteous if [Ou] had done so,” Lin said.

KMT Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞), who also serves on the foundation's board, said Ou should have informed all of the foundation's board members before sending the letter to Gershman.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG

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