Political Manipulations Mar SEF/ARATS Negotiations

Director Cheng Wen-Tsang of the Department of Culture and Information and Director Lin Cheng-Wei of the Department of International Affairs held a press conference regarding the SEF and ARATS negotiations today (June 12). Director Cheng emphasizes that there were many political manipulation throughout the process of the SEF and ARATS negotiations. For example, there was the ‘secret rendezvous’ of KMT officials in Hong Kong prior to the resumption of talks between the SEF and ARATS, as well as KMT Chairman Wu Po-Hsiung’s visit before the negotiations. This shows China’s deliberate attempt to expand the role of the KMT, a political party, and minimize and downgrade the role of Taiwan’s government, in these talks.

Director Lin also questioned the addition agreements on setting up liaison offices in Taiwan and China and the joint exploration of oil resources. The DPP remains cautious and questions whether the SEF have overextended its authority by discussing these two additional issues. Lin also demanded for the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and President Ma to explain to the public how these two issues became part of the agenda.

Director Cheng states that the interests of Taiwan and principles of cross-strait equality must be of the utmost importance in cross-straight relations and negotiations between China and Taiwan. This is the only way to ensure that negotiations between the two sides will be on the right track. However, the SEF and ARATS negotiations have been heavily influenced by political manipulations as demonstrated by the aforementioned incident in Hong Kong where none of the commitments or understandings of these secret meetings were made public. Moreover the resumption of talks between the SEF and ARATS was only possible after KMT’s Wu’s visit with China’s Hu Jin-tao to proceed with the cross-strait negotiations under the KMT-CCP platform. It is thus unfortunate that it appears that further negotiations between the SEF and ARATS must proceed under the current established political structure.

Furthermore, Director Cheng indicates that there was a significant difference in treatment between Wu Po-Hsiung and SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kun’s visits to Beijing. The media interviews and official reception of Chiang’s visit were limited compared to Wu’s, another indication of China trying to expand the role of the KM party while minimizing the government as China only sees the SEF in a subordinate role under the conditions of the KMT-CCP platform.

In regards to the SEF/ARATS negotiations, Director Lin Cheng-wei states that the DPP would only promote cross-straight relations only if Taiwan’s interests and dignity are well-protected. However, with the emergence of unexpected issues such as the establishment of liaison offices and joint exploration of oil resources, Lin suspects that these negotiations were not authorized by the MAC, or whether the MAC did authorize this, while keeping the Taiwanese public in the dark. If the MAC did not authorize these negotiations without the knowledge of the people, it leads to another possibility: these negotiations were authorized directly by President Ma without consulting MAC at all. Again, President Ma and Chairwoman Lai must clarify and explain details of negotiations of these issues.

During the DPP administration, Director Lin pointed out that there were already ongoing discussions on the establishment of liaison offices in China to assist Taiwanese businessmen and travelers in China. However these negotiations were complicated, as the setting up of these offices involved issues on the preservation of Taiwan’s national dignity as well as the practical issue on the ability of these liaison offices to fully exert public authority. Therefore it is important for the KMT to explain the logistics involved with the setting up of these liaison offices, and how they intend to protect Taiwan’s interests.

Director Lin also indicates that the subject of the joint development of oil resources is a volatile topic because unlike issues regarding passenger and cargo chartered flights and the opening of Chinese tourists into Taiwan, this is an issue that has not been discussed before in Taiwan. It is a complex matter which affects national security, foreign affairs and economy so it is important that President Ma publicly explain how the SEF had independently engaged in talks with China about this issue.