The haste shown by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration in seeking the establishment of cross-strait representative offices by the end of the year has put Taiwan at a disadvantage at the negotiating table, sources were quoted by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers as saying.
“Chinese officials are unwilling to make any concessions, thus making the talks very difficult,” an unnamed Taiwanese official involved in the negotiations was quoted by KMT lawmakers as saying.
“They even told the Taiwanese negotiation team: ‘Your side [Taiwan] should pass relevant laws first. We can take our time over the rest and deliberate afterward.”
The KMT legislators, who wished to remain anonymous, said this would amount to “giving them [China] a blank cheque” and Taiwan’s signing of any such agreement could lead to major problems.
However, despite these concerns, Taiwanese negotiators are now facing huge pressure from senior figures, the lawmakers said.
“They [the negotiators] feel helpless because the matter is out of their hands,” the lawmakers added.
According to the sources, the Executive Yuan, to facilitate the process, requested that the legislature approve the Cabinet-drafted version of the legislation in a timely fashion and give authorization to the Mainland Affairs Council to complete any missing elements.
In acquiescing to pressure from the upper echelons of the government, the KMT caucus even tried to “sneak through” proposed amendments to the Organic Act of the Mainland Affairs Council (陸委會組織法) during inter-caucus negotiations on the last day of the legislative session on May 31.
The attempt was discovered by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) lawmakers who strongly protested such actions and later blocked the amendments.
The DPP and TSU caucuses slammed the ploy, saying that as the functions and operations of the proposed cross-strait offices have not yet been agreed with China, then there is no need to rush to try and establish a legal basis for dispatching of Taiwanese officials to China
Cross-Strait Agreements Watch convener Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) said: “China is unwilling to make promises on the function and rights of Taiwanese officials there. If the Legislative Yuan rushes to pass the amendment, it will render meaningless establishing representative offices in China and Taiwan’s government will lose a major bargaining chip in the negotiations.”
Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群), convener of Taiwan Democracy Watch also questioned China’s stance on the matter.
“The Chinese government is often maligned for being unable to abide by the rule of law. Even if Beijing promises that Taiwan’s representatives would be given visitation rights, local governments in China might not accept it,” he said.
“If the Ma administration wants to sign an agreement to set up representative offices, we must clearly spell out the contents of visitation rights as well as counter measures [in the case that China violates the visitation rights],” Hsu added.
According to Lai, in principle, China’s signing of bilateral agreement on setting up representative offices with other countries is based on the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which clearly defines visitation rights, legal representation and other related consular rights.