President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended the proposal to establish representative offices for the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) in China and for the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) in Taiwan, adding that the two sides would not unfurl national flags at such offices.
“There will be no national flags or other kinds of flags designed to specify cross-strait relations inside or outside the offices because we are not foreign nations to each other,” he said yesterday during an interview with the Chinese-language United Evening News.
Ma said the services offered by the representative offices would include handling travel documents, but visa issuance would not be performed.
The Mainland Affairs Council said Taiwan plans to set up three representative offices in China and is unlikely to allow Beijing to set up 10 offices in Taiwan for now. The two sides will continue to negotiate the number of offices on each side, the council said.
The establishment of the cross-strait representative offices has drawn criticism from the opposition camp. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers said that the move could damage the nation’s sovereignty, adding that China could use the offices as a channel for intelligence gathering in Taiwan.
Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) reiterated that Taiwan’s offices in China would solely deal with consular affairs and protecting Taiwanese residing in the country.
Ma said that the government would adhere to the Constitution in establishing the representative offices.
Proponents of the move say that while the government will not acknowledge the existence of China as an independent nation, it cannot deny the government on the other side as an authority with governing rights.
The say the opening of SEF and ARATS offices is in line with Ma’s China policy and is aimed at enhancing cross-strait ties.
Authorities are reviewing the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), which governs legal matters between people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait, in relation with the proposed offices.