Sat, Feb 18, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Beijing mayor encounters several protests on visits

PRESS’ FURY:The media criticized security measures at one venue and said that press freedoms had been compromised as about 12 reporters were refused entry

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff Reporter

Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong’s (郭金龍) visits to the National Palace Museum and the Taipei Songshan Cultural & Creative Park were surrounded by protests and tight security yesterday, with human rights advocates condemning his country’s human rights record and criticizing the government for approving his visit.

Guo, who arrived in Taiwan on Thursday for a six-day trip to promote Beijing Culture Week, met with protests staged by Falun Gong practitioners and advocates of Tibetan independence during his visit to the museum.

Activists, who carried signs protesting China’s human rights records, shouted “Free Tibet” when Guo arrived at the museum and were immediately ushered away by police.

Guo and his delegation have been followed by protesters since they arrived in Taiwan.

The mayor, leading a cultural delegation from Beijing and accompanied by museum director Chou Kung-shin (周功鑫), ignored the protesters and visited several exhibits.

During his visit, Guo stressed the significance of Chinese culture for both Taiwan and China.

“We are hoping to enhance cross-strait cultural exchanges during this trip,” he said.

He praised the museum, saying it was a Chinese cultural treasure, and he hoped it would continue working with the National Palace Museum in China in hosting exhibits.

He later attended a luncheon banquet hosted by Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and visited exhibits at the Songshan Cultural & Creative Park in the afternoon.

Security was tight during Guo’s visit to the park, which was open to the media, and security guards and staff from the Taipei Culture Foundation blocked several entrances to the venue and refused to let in about a dozen reporters.

Members of the media later criticized the security, saying it limited the press’ freedom to cover the event, a comment which Taipei City Government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang (張其強) dismissed.

Chang said the incident was the result of a miscommunication between the organizers and security guards.

“The exhibition rooms have limited capacity and we were trying to keep enough space for both the media and the guests,” he said. “We welcome coverage from the press and there was no tightening of security to prevent protests.”

Guo yesterday refused to discuss Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s (艾未未) protest against his visit. Ai recently refused an offer by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum to show some of his paintings.

Hau, on the other hand, said the Fine Arts Museum had not received an official statement from Ai, but that it would respect his decision.

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