Academics yesterday highlighted the importance of visitation rights for proposed Taiwanese and Chinese representative offices in each other’s countries, so that detainees on either side are not left without assistance.
The offices should be endowed with the rights to deal with legal matters, visit those who have been arrested or detained on either side of the Taiwan Strait and provide emergency assistance, Chen Te-sheng (陳德昇), a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of National Chengchi University, said at a public hearing at the Legislative Yuan.
Because Taiwan’s political system and social environment is very different from China’s, many Taiwanese are likely to be dissatisfied if the Straits Exchange Foundation’s (SEF) representative offices do not have such functions, Chen said.
Chiu Tai-san (邱太三), head of the financial and economic law department at Asia University, said that without visitation rights, the planned offices would have no more authority than the more than 100 associations of Taiwanese businesspeople operating in China.
Visitation rights are one of several thorny issues facing the two nations as they discuss the possibility of setting up representative offices.
Former foundation secretary-general Chen Rong-jye (陳榮傑) has previously said that the office staff must be able to protect their fellow citizens overseas. If someone is arrested or detained while abroad, informing the government of the situation is a basic service performed by a consulate, along with visiting the detainees and helping them to secure legal representation, he said.
“It’s a basic aspect of human rights protection,” Chen was quoted by local media as saying.
Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said he was aware of the importance of visitation rights and would do his best to secure them.
He added that the proposal to allow the planned offices to process travel documents is moving in a positive direction.
“Mainland Chinese authorities have responded favorably to the proposal,” Wang said on the sidelines of the hearing.
The Democratic Progressive Party has criticized the government’s inability to secure the proposed offices’ rights to issue travel documents, saying that without such a function, there would be no point in setting up the offices.
Wang said the offices main functions would be to promote trade, economic, cultural and educational ties and provide emergency assistance, but added that talks on having the offices also process travel documents are moving in a positive direction.
On a proposal that staff at the foundation’s Beijing office be allowed to visit Taiwanese detained in China, Wang said China has agreed to inform the foundation’s office whenever a Taiwanese is being held.
“We will continue negotiating with Beijing to permit Straits Exchange Foundation staff posted in mainland China to visit detained Taiwanese,” Wang said.