Blair to visit in October
Former British prime minister Tony Blair is expected to make his first-ever trip to Taiwan in the middle of October, political sources said. Blair, who served as prime minister from 1997 to 2007, is scheduled to visit Asia in October and major local groups, led by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, have invited him to add Taiwan to his itinerary for the trip, the sources said. Since his resignation as prime minister, member of parliament and leader of the Labour Party in June 2007, Blair has served as the Quartet’s Middle East special envoy. The Quartet is a group of nations and international entities involved in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher visited Taiwan twice, in 1992 and 1996, after she left her post.
Lien to attend APEC
Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) will attend the 20th APEC leadership forum in Russia in September as the envoy of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the Presidential Office announced on Wednesday. It will be the fifth time that Lien will be representing the nation at the annual summit, which will be held this year in Vladivostok on Sept. 8 and 9. The topic for this year’s summit is “Integrate to Grow, Innovate to Prosper,” and major agendas at the summit include investment liberalization, regional economic integration, food safety measures, reliable supply chain mechanisms and innovation promotion. As the nation’s envoy to APEC for the previous four years, Ma trusts Lien with his deep understanding of politics, the economy and international affairs, and therefore decided to invite him to serve as his envoy to the forum this year, Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) said.
Tourists flocking to Taiwan
The number of foreign visitors could break the 7 million threshold this year if tourist arrival numbers can be maintained, Tourism Bureau officials said yesterday following the release of the latest tourism statistics. According to the bureau’s data, foreign visitor arrivals reached 3.57 million during the first half of the year, a 25.24 percent increase compared with the same period last year. The surge was mostly attributed to Chinese tourists, which posted over 1.2 million arrivals, at a 52 percent growth rate, during the first six months. Following an all-time high of 6.08 million foreign visitor arrivals last year, the bureau estimated in January that arrivals could grow to 6.6 million this year. Major increases in tourist numbers were also seen in other Asian countries, with Japan and Singapore posting year-on-year growth of 21 percent and 15 percent respectively.
Violinist at royal concert
A 17-year-old Taiwanese violinist is scheduled to perform as a soloist today in a royal concert that is a prelude to the 181st anniversary of Belgium’s independence. Earlier this year, Tseng Yu-chien (曾宇謙) took fifth place and won the audience prize at the 75th Queen Elisabeth Competition, a prestigious international music competition. He performed pieces including Ravel’s violin sonata, Sakai Kenji’s violin concerto and Brahms’ violin concerto in the final of the competition. Tseng started playing the violin at the age of five and has begun to receive international recognition in recent years, including winning first prize at the Isang Yun Competition last year.