Wed, Nov 11, 2015 - Page 3 News List

MA-XI MEETING: Reporter’s Notebook: President ‘evolves’ from bumbler to buffoon

By Huang Tai-lin  /  Staff reporter

President Ma Ying-jeou, fourth right at table, holds a press conference following his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday in Singapore.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

For any journalist, the opportunity to record and witness an event that is set to go down in history, such as the historic summit between the two leaders across the Taiwan Strait on Saturday, is without a doubt exhilarating.

However, as the day unfolded, the thrill was quickly overtaken by frustration and a sense that Taiwan was being unfairly treated as a result of its government’s negligence to uphold the rights of Taiwanese journalists and insist on equal treatment with their Chinese peers.

It was sad to see President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) lack of sophistication and dignity in an international setting, a shame that reduces the prestige of Taiwan as a whole.

The meeting between Ma and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took place in Singapore at the Shangri-la Hotel. According to the run-down of the summit made available the day before, it was slated to begin at 3pm, with Ma and Xi first exchanging a handshake for the camera before having a one hour talk behind closed doors, which the media were allowed to attend for the first five-minute opening remarks delivered by the two leaders.

The summit was then followed by a press conference held by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) before a separate news conference presided over by Ma.

While the Ma-Xi meeting took place on perceived neutral ground, it is clear from the start that China was comfortable enough in the setting to be able to enjoy a home advantage.

A number of media outlets, in a bid to be among the first to get into the venue and therefore secure optimal filming and photography positions for the historic moment, began the day on Saturday by lining up at the metal detectors set up at the meeting entrance.

In the case of a photo journalist from the Chinese-language Liberty Times’ (the Taipei Times’ sister paper), he managed to be the first in the line at one of the metal-detector gates by beginning to line up at 4am. By the time security checks began at 1pm, however, Taiwanese media were dumbfounded to see a number of journalists from media outlets in China had already got in well ahead and had their equipment positioned in the first row.

While the Chinese press corps were already in possession of the required press passes early on Saturday morning, Taiwanese media did not get theirs until noon, which were distributed by a Mainland Affairs Council staffer in a corner of the hotel.

The Taiwanese reporters’ initial press passes, which were dated by the Republic of China’s calendar year of 104, had also later been replaced with ones using the Gregorian calendar.

Reporters were also shooed out of the closed-door venue by a member of the Chinese delegation before Ma had finished making his opening remarks.

Some might dismiss these as trivial matters; yet what lies at the core of these seemingly inconsequential episodes is a total lack of respect.

It is worth noting that while the Ma-Xi meeting drew hordes of international media, the presentation of the summit itself was at odds with international norms. For example, no announcement of any sort, not even introductory background music, was made to announce Ma and Xi’s arrival at the venue; the two simply entered from opposite sides of the room quietly before walking to the center and standing against a plain yellow background, a color associated with China’s oft-touted yan huang zisun (炎黃子孫, descendants of emperors Yan and Huang).

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