Officials forced to leave UN meet

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Sep 22, 2016 - Page 3

Two Taiwanese officials were forced to leave a meeting of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in Italy in July, allegedly due to pressure from China, Fisheries Agency Director-General Chen Tian-shou (陳添壽) said yesterday.

Chen said that when the two representatives from his agency presented their passports at the venue, one entered, but the other was stopped.

The first official was later asked to leave the meeting and although both of them sought assistance, they “had difficulty” participating, Chen told a legislative hearing.

He said the two officials had registered to attend the meeting, not as government representatives, but as members of nongovernmental organizations (NGO) — the Taiwan Fisheries Association and the Overseas Fisheries Development Council of the Republic of China.

It was the first time such an incident had occurred at a COFI meeting since 2003, when Taiwanese officials began participating as NGO members or experts, Chen said, confirming local media reports on the matter.

In July, the COFI’s 32nd session was held in Rome to discuss global fisheries policies, initiatives and partnerships, as well as issues such as food security and nutrition, biodiversity conservation, marine litter and microplastics, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Asked by another lawmaker whether the Fisheries Agency had assessed the possibility of future participation in the biennial meeting, Chen said he would do his best, although “things have tightened up relatively at present.”

Asked about the incident, Council of Agriculture Minister Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻) implied that China was to blame.

Tsao said that countries should recognize that the 21st century is a new era in which the Earth’s ecological environment is interdependent on all of its inhabitants.

“We urge China to recognize this,” Tsao said. “China seems to have always placed politics first and foremost, but that is a thing of the 20th century.”

He added that he disapproved of the way China and the organizers handled the matter in July.

The FAO should encourage countries and NGOs to participate in its meetings, where they can share information about marine protection and resources, he said.