Fri, Sep 02, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Beijing still refusing to resume dialogue, despite Tien posting

By Chen Yu-fu, Lin Liang-sheng, Yang Chun-hui and Jonatha  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Straits Exchange Foundation chairman Tien Hung-mao is pictured in an undated photograph.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) yesterday said that Beijing would not resume regular communications with Taipei, despite the appointment of former minister of foreign affairs Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂) as chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).

The Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) — the foundation’s counterpart — will not resume regular dialogue with the SEF until the “local authority” recognizes the so-called “1992 consensus,” Zhang said at a news conference after a cross-strait economic forum in Shandong Province.

The “1992 consensus,” a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) admitted to making up in 2000, refers to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese government that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge that there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.

“The key to the problem is the political basis, the political basis of the negotiation being authorized, not the individuals involved,” Zhang said.

According to a source close to the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media, former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) was offered the chairmanship first, but after a lengthy period of discussion Wang declined the position, prompting the administration to name Tien.

The source said the Presidential Office chose Tien because he has no business dealings or personal interests in China that would call into question his ability to rise above Beijing’s influence, he is a widely respected academic in China and Taiwan, and he has credibility with Beijing as a courier of authoritative messages while having a pan-green pedigree that makes him acceptable to the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) base.

In addition, Tien worked with Tsai during his tenure as the minister of foreign affairs and has been acting as one of Tsai’s foremost advisors on cross-strait relations, the source said.

KMT Legislator Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) said Tien was responsible for printing the word “Taiwan” on passports as the then-minister of foreign affairs, and his appointment shows that the Tsai administration is “not willing or able to take the restoration of regular cross-strait negotiations seriously.”

Meanwhile, DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said: “Tien understands the special state-to-state relationship and has a flair for international affairs. There is no doubt that he understands the cross-strait situation and is qualified to facilitate cross-strait relations.”

DPP Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said naming Tien as chairman would ease Tsai’s relationship with the party’s base, adding that since Tien has pan-green credentials and had served on the National Unification Council during former president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) administration, he would be a SEF chairman who is acceptable to all groups.

“At the very least, the SEF’s role as the cross-strait fax machine will be preserved,” Huang said.

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