The Presidential Office yesterday downplayed the removal of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) photograph and information from the APEC Web site, saying they were happy about the “breakthrough” the country made this year.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) called the “breakthrough” the “biggest” since APEC was established 17 years ago.
“It serves the interests of Taiwan if we continue to make progress,” he said.
Ma on Tuesday acknowledged the organizer of this year’s APEC summit for using his photograph and referring to him as “president” on the Web site and official documents, saying it indicated his more conciliatory cross-strait policies were working.
It marked the first time that the country’s president was introduced in an APEC document and the first time since Taiwan became an APEC member economy in 1991 that a host country published a picture of a Taiwanese president on the Web site.
Ma’s photograph and other information, however, were later removed from the Web site. Critics suspected China of interfering in the matter.
Since Taiwan and China joined APEC in 1991, Beijing has blocked Taipei’s presidents and foreign ministers from attending the group’s forums, citing a memorandum of understanding signed with China and Hong Kong before Taipei joined the group under the name “Chinese Taipei.” Under this memorandum, the three economies entered the organization as a single economic entity.
Beijing’s backroom bullying over Taiwan’s participation at APEC reached a climax in 2001, when the meeting was held in Shanghai, and Beijing blocked Taiwan from attending the leaders meeting.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday that Taiwan’s standing in APEC remained solid, adding that Taiwan was not the only country whose profile was erased from the APEC Web site.
“According to our understanding,” said Director-General of the Department of International Organizations Paul Chang (章文樑), “the entire section that introduces all the heads of member economies was completely taken down.”
He added that Taiwan was not singled out and the public should not read too much into the situation.
Chang insisted that the deletion was not specifically aimed at Taiwan and if APEC organizers made any gestures to demean Taiwan, “we will lodge a protest at an appropriate time.”
MOFA is still investigating why the section was taken down, he added.
MOFA said that Lima commissioned its national news agency, Andina, to handle all media-related affairs and to post APEC-related information on the Web site.
The APEC summit, also known as the informal economic leaders’ meeting, will be held in Lima from tomorrow through Sunday this year.
The reception is scheduled for tomorrow and business networking, tours and golf are planned for Sunday.
Leaders scheduled to speak at the summit include Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, US President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).
Former vice president and honorary Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) is standing in for Ma in Lima this year. Lien is the highest-ranking Taiwanese official to attend the event.
Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) proposed that former vice president Li Yuan-zu (李元簇) be the APEC representative, but the proposal was voted down by Beijing.
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