Legislators across party lines slammed the Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday for turning a partially government-funded foundation into a promotional vehicle for Chinese agriculture.
The criticism followed a report in yesterday’s Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) that the Rural Development Foundation (RDF) had switched from assisting agricultural development in foreign countries to promoting China’s agricultural policies.
The foundation’s Web site (www.rdf.org.tw) has just two sections on its homepage — “China’s Agricultural Information” and “China’s Agricultural Statistics” — and made no mention of Taiwan’s agriculture, the report said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chang Hwa-kuan (張花冠) said that soon after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office, 85-year-old Ke Jin-chao (葛錦昭), a former council official, became the foundation’s chairperson.
“The foundation is ‘Sinicizing’ in the name of ‘internationalizing.’ Its Web site details the agricultural policies of each province of China. It has essentially become an outlet for China’s policies,” she said.
On Sunday Chang accused the foundation of serving as a vehicle to transfer Taiwan’s advanced agricultural technologies to China.
DPP caucus whip Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) demanded the foundation update its Web site immediately.
“I’m hurt that the foundation has nothing but information on China’s agriculture. It is funded by donations from the government, so it should speak for Taiwan, not China,” he said.
DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) asked if the government was trying to promote Taiwan’s agriculture or China’s.
Meanwhile, Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Wang Cheng-teng (王政騰) told the legislature the government had commissioned the foundation to research information on Chinese agriculture to help cross-strait development. He denied accusations that it was a “white glove” through which the government could deal with Beijing.
“For cross-strait development, we feel that it is necessary to know each other’s [technologies and policies,]” Wang said.
The government provides about 0.24 percent of the RDF’s budget, Wang said, and the council only “supervises” the foundation.
Plans for the foundation to work with Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand are under way, Wang said.
But his comments failed to appease lawmakers.
DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said she “could not bear to listen to the excuse that the council was merely ‘trying to get to know Chinese policies.’”
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) said the foundation should change its name to the “China Rural Development Foundation.”
A proposal by KMT Legislator Hsiao Ching-tien (蕭景田) calling on the council to provide details of its funding of the foundation since 1981 within a week was passed by the legislative session.
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