All details of charter flights to evacuate Taiwanese in China amid the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak must be negotiated by Taipei and Beijing, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said yesterday, adding that loopholes exposed by a charter flight from Wuhan, China, on Monday must not be exploited again.
Su made the remarks at a weekly Cabinet meeting amid controversy surrounding the flight, which carried three passengers who were not on an approved list, including one who was confirmed to be infected with the virus after the airplane landed, Executive Yuan spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka told a news conference.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Committee member Vincent Hsu (徐正文), who represents a self-help group of Taiwanese in Wuhan, helped arrange the flight.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
Control over the situation had been completely lost and such incidents must not be allowed to occur again, Kolas quoted Su as saying.
The premier gave four instructions for evacuation flights, Kolas said.
First, disadvantaged people — including those on short-term business trips, on long-term medication, and the elderly and young — must be given priority for the charter flights, Su said.
Second, the government would demand that its health personnel inspect flights before passengers board to screen for the disease and prevent people from “sneaking” onto the aircraft, he said.
Taiwan would provide first-rate treatment to anyone exhibiting pneumonia-like symptoms after their return, but the government values the health of other passengers as well, he added.
Third, Chinese authorities must provide Taipei with complete lists of passengers for verification, Su said, adding that a last-minute manifest, such as the one provided just before Monday’s charter flight, would not be accepted.
Fourth, charter flights must be arranged on a government-to-government basis, he said, adding that no more intermediaries would be allowed.
Details on the flights must be ironed out by the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits or higher-ranking agencies, Su said.
Any intermediary attempting to speak for the government in an attempt to win praise would not be welcome, he added.
Local media yesterday reported that a Taiwanese minor with hemophilia was left stranded in Wuhan after they were “negotiated” off the list of passengers at the last minute.
The child has reportedly run out of medicine and might only survive until about Monday.
Asked about the government’s response, the Mainland Affairs Council said that the child would be given priority if there is a second evacuation flight and that it was arranging for Taiwanese businesspeople to deliver the needed medication.
Separately yesterday, the KMT said that it would suspend Hsu’s membership.
Hsu was not part of a seven-member group that helped negotiate the charter flight to evacuate Taiwanese, it said in a statement.
Without the party’s authorization, he held several news conferences and spoke to reporters about the outbreak, it said.
In addition to “creating panic,” Hsu “disrupted and hindered” efforts by the government and other groups to cooperate on fighting the outbreak, it added.
Hsu’s behavior “severely damaged the party’s image and reputation,” the statement said.
After consulting members of the KMT Disciplinary Committee, the party said that it decided to “first suspend [Hsu’s] party rights,” adding that a further disciplinary review would follow.
Additional reporting by CNA
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