Thu, Mar 25, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Minister seeks to relax rules on visits to China

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Amid the controversy surrounding former National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Su Chi’s (蘇起) planned trip to China, Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said yesterday he would seek to relax regulations on retired government officials traveling to China.

Su announced on Sunday he intends to take part in the Boao Forum in Hainan Province, China, on April 9.

Questions have been raised as to whether he should be allowed to attend the forum, as he stepped down as head of the council — which handles sensitive affairs pertaining to national security — only last month and whether his delayed application to travel to China should be approved.

Laws and regulations state that Su, as an official who had access to classified information and who resigned less than three years ago, is required to file an application for permission to travel to China to a joint review panel composed of representatives from government authorities, including the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), the Mainland Affairs Council and the NSC at least three weeks prior to his date of departure.

For Su to be allowed to go to China, he should have submitted his application last Friday at the latest. He filed it on Monday.

“I think the three-week rule was made because whoever made the rule wanted to be safe, because it actually takes only about a week to review an application,” Jiang told reporters after an Internal Administration Committee meeting at the legislature yesterday. “However, after having the rule for so many years, it has proved impractical and I will propose a revision to relax it — but I don’t have any concrete idea about how to fix it yet.”

Jiang said that invitations to meetings in China often arrive less than a month prior to the event and that as a consequence, having to file an application three weeks in advance was problematic.

Earlier at the committee meeting, Jiang told Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator William Lai (賴清德) that a number of retired officials had filed applications less than three weeks prior to departure and been granted permission to visit China.

“In 2007, former vice premier Wu Rong-i [吳榮義] — who had stepped down the previous year — filed an application to go to China on Oct. 9. It was approved within five days,” Jiang said. “There were many more such instances during the DPP administration. We’re simply following precedents.”

MOI statistics show that 31 applications by retired government officials to visit China in 2004, 42 in 2005, 112 in 2006, 125 in 2007 and 224 in 2008 were filed less than three weeks prior to departure. All were approved by the DPP government.

“I think the DPP was wrong to allow them to go. The MOI shouldn’t have done it back then and the MOI shouldn’t do it now,” Lai said. “You should not follow a bad example.”

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