Cross-strait offices plan gets mixed reception

By Chris Wang and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter and staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Apr 16, 2013 - Page 3

The government’s “vague” explanations of the legality of China establishing a representative office in Taiwan are akin to justifying bringing an enemy into one’s house because Beijing would be able to gather intelligence and carry out its unification ambition under the protection of Taiwanese law, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucus said yesterday following the announcement last week that Taiwan and China may set up cross-strait representative offices later this year.

Currently, there are offices on both sides that issue travel documents, TSU Legislator Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) told a press conference, adding that the moves to set up representative offices could be politically motivated and the result of a “wink-wink deal” between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party to promote bilateral political talks.

Talks about opening a Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) in China and an Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) offices in Taiwan have already begun.

TSU Legislator Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) criticize President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration for “unilaterally” granting China diplomatic privileges and immunities without a guarantee of reciprocity.

Hsu added that if Taiwan’s office in China is unable to deal with consular affairs and protect Taiwanese residing there, it would be a meaningless agency because personal safety and rights are among the most important issues for Taiwanese businesspeople in China.

Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Kuo Cheng-liang (郭正亮) said it made no sense for the pan-green camp to support the institutionalization and normalization of cross-strait relations, while at the same time opposing the establishment of the offices.

With regards to security concerns, Kuo said that every diplomatic mission in the world — including Taiwan’s — is tasked with gathering intelligence, adding that China already has numerous channels through which to gather intelligence in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said that Taiwan would initially plan to set up three representative offices in China.

Wang made the remarks on the sidelines of a questio-and-answer session at the legislature where Wang, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) and Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Lin Join-sane (林中森) answered questions from legislators on the government’s plans for the establishment of the representative offices and a proposal to allow more white-collar Chinese to work in Taiwan.

Wang said that given the number of SEF staff, the government could initially establish a maximum of three representative offices in China — one in Beijing, in central China and in southern China.

“It is likely that that number would increase in the future, but we could discuss the final number at a later date,” Wang said.

During a question-and-answer session at the meeting, DPP Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) said that since setting up representative offices on both sides was an extremely sensitive matter, there was a risk of agitating the public if the council did not handle the matter carefully.

“Is it possible that China will establish 10 offices in Taiwan at once? Could China’s national flag be unfurled next to Taiwan’s national flags at these offices?” Tuan asked.

Wang responded that the government was unlikely to initially allow Beijing to set up 10 offices and that the number of offices would be negotiated at cross-strait meetings and decided by “the needs of both sides.”

“However, the council will not permit the ARATS to establish a representative office in all of Taiwan’s administrative regions,” Wang said.

As to whether Taiwan could unfurl its national flag at such offices, Wang said that China had yet to respond to the matter, but both sides would continue to deliberate the issue.

In related news, SEF Vice Chairman Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) left for China yesterday to see how Taiwan-owned companies in the cities of Chengdu and Chongqing are faring.

Prior to his departure, Kao said that Beijing is prioritizing the development of western China, and Chongqing and Chengdu are high on its investment list.

“Many of our electronics manufacturers have invested in the two cities and we’d like to know how they’re doing,” Kao said.

Kao, who is traveling with a delegation of SEF officials and trade experts, said he will meet senior executives of Taiwanese businesses in Chengdu and Chongqing to discuss any problems they may be having and if they need the SEF’s assistance.