The Paracel Islands (西沙群島) are an integral territory of the Republic of China (ROC), a government official said yesterday, amid rumors that China plans to let tourists visit the disputed islands.
“According to our Constitution, the Paracel Islands are part of our territory. There is no doubt that we will adhere to our principles,” said Mainland Affairs Council spokesperson Liu Te-shun (劉德勳), adding that based on the premise of ROC ownership, the country would like to set aside disputes over sovereign claims and jointly explore the region with other countries.
Liu made the remark when questioned by reporters over a wire report yesterday which said that Deng Xiaogang (鄧小剛), a vice mayor of Haikou on China’s southern island of Hainan, which is close to the Paracel Islands, had been quoted by China’s state media as saying authorities hoped to allow maritime tourism on the Paracels within the year.
The Paracels — or Hoang Sa Islands in Vietnamese — are a cluster of close to 40 islets, outcrops and reefs in the South China Sea. They are claimed by Taiwan as well as Vietnam and China.
Later yesterday however, the Web site of China's mouthpiece, the People's Daily, cited Deng as saying he had never spoken to the media about this issue.
“[I] don't understand anything about tourism in the Paracels", he told the People's Daily.
The report also said he no longer had any position in Hainan's tourism department.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊), asked about the possibility of promoting tourism in the Paracels, repeated the Chinese government's view that the islands were Chinese sovereign territory.