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Mainland Affairs Council

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Address by MAC Chairman Chen Ming-tong at the 2008 New Year's Press Conference

Mainland Affairs Council, Executive Yuan

The topic of the press briefing today is remembering the past and looking into the future. Since 2000 when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came into power, various sectors of society have raised doubts over its "ever-changing" China policy. As one of the draftsmen of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) "White Paper on China Policy," I believe that one of the strategic objectives of the Taiwanese government's China policy is consistent and clear: the realization of the normalization of cross-strait relations. The White Paper gives a complete description of the major policies—including the consolidation of the consensus on national status, the planning of future cross-strait relations, and the scheduled progress toward achieving objectives, which have been concretely implemented. For example, in the consolidation of the consensus on national status, over recent years more than 70 percent of the people in Taiwan have insisted on Taiwan-centric consciousness; this is a great achievement. In political aspect, due to election and other factors, different camps in Taiwan have held debates based on differing stances. However, there is no denying that such Taiwan-centric consciousness has been deeply rooted in Taiwan’s social strata. In the past, I ever wrote an article entitled "The strategic objectives of Taiwan's China policy; the five key policy themes for the promotion of the normalization of cross-strait relations." I have especially prepared an abridged version of this article for your reference today. We have implemented Taiwan’s China policy based on these strategic objectives. As such, unlike what outsiders have alleged, our policy is by no means "ever-changing."

In cross-strait exchanges, many people have criticized the government's policy as a "closed-door policy." I beg to disagree strongly with such a view. Since coming into power in 2000, the DPP government has implemented the "Mini-Three-Links"(MTL) starting in 2001. In 2007, about 800,000 person-trips were made between Kinmen/Matsu and China via the "Mini-Three-Links" route, which has benefited so many Taiwanese businessmen and travelers. Moreover, with regard to the opening up of tourism in Taiwan for Chinese tourists, although the cross-strait negotiations on allowing Category-1 Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan have fallen into a stalemate, Category-2 and Category-3 Chinese tourists have accumulatively made more than 200,000 person-trips to Taiwan. To enhance the public's understanding of the government's efforts in lifting the ban on cross-strait exchanges, the Mainland Affairs Council has especially listed down the measures adopted by the government under its policy of easing restrictions on cross-strait exchanges and provided the relevant figures and statistics for your reference.

In the trade and economic aspect, what really makes the government feel worry is that China has become Taiwan's biggest investment destination and the country with which Taiwan enjoys the maximum trade surplus. Last year, Taiwan's trade surplus reached US$27.4 billion, of which Taiwan’s trade surplus with China reached more than US$46.3 billion. Based on these figures, we can see that the government's China policy is absolutely not a “closed-door policy.”

Although this year is an election year, it is still necessary for us to push forward government affairs. The following are this year's major policy directions. First, in the coming months, especially after the opening of the new session of the Legislative Yuan, our primary objective is to push for the passage of the Refugee Act by getting it through three readings. In fact, the Executive Yuan already submitted the draft Refugee Act to the Legislative Yuan in the previous legislative session and listed it as one of the priority bills that the Executive Yuan hoped to promote. However, it is regretted that it failed to be passed in the previous session. The incidents—including that of Chinese dissident Wu Yalin, who came to Taiwan to seek asylum a few days ago on a tourist visa, and those of other earlier dissidents, Cai Lujun and Jia Jia—have enabled us to understand it is important for us to push for the passage of a Refugee Act to establish a system for specifically handling such cases. Therefore, pushing for the passage of the Refugee Act is our main objective in this year.

Although the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has set a standard for the identification of refugees, our previous requests for UNHCR assistance have been refused since Taiwan was not a member of the United Nations. Thus, many Chinese people seeking political asylum in Taiwan were unable to directly request assistance from the UNHCR, and they had to proceed to a third country where the government there could make the request on their behalf. For example, when Jia Jia arrived in Australia, the local government there made the request on his behalf so that he was able to proceed to a third country after having been identified as a refugee by the UNHCR. Therefore, in order to link to the international community, we need to formulate our own Refugee Act to enable the individuals who suffer prosecution due to differing political views to find a place to live comfortably and to materialize Taiwan’s spirit of building our country based on the principles of human rights.

Second, with regard to the employment rights of Mainland spouses in Taiwan, we have always handled related matters under the principle of “better social assistance, improved PR approval.” Our objective is to provide them with assistance—a key portion is to help them gain employment rights—so that they can enjoy a better life in Taiwan. In the past, we first allowed Mainland spouses who came to Taiwan for family reunion (and later on for spouse residency) to gain employment rights, and then we allowed them to gain such rights during their spouse residency period in Taiwan as long as they meet seven requirements. Right now we are considering further relaxing the requirements for gaining employment rights. At present, with regard to the deliberation on the further relaxation of the employment requirements for Mainland spouses coming to Taiwan for spouse residency, certain progress has been achieved. We hope that we can officially promulgate the new policy in the coming months.

Third, we hope to include the overstaying Mainland spouses within our management system, so that we can assist them in obtaining the qualifications for legal residency. In fact, many overstaying cases have occurred either because the overstayers’ documents have been withheld by their family members, or because they have no idea that the relevant regulations require them to exit the country after staying in Taiwan for a period of time for family reunion. Therefore, considering their family lives and other factors, we will more carefully address the issue regarding the overstaying of Mainland spouses in the new year.

Fourth, we still hope that cross-strait relations can be stably developed in the new year. At present, cross-strait negotiations on a number of important issues have been shelved due to China’s political considerations. In the new year we will make efforts to promote these negotiations. In this regard, I have especially prepared the following five-point appeal that the MAC wants to address to the Beijing authorities:

1. We appeal to China to join with Taiwan in promoting cross-strait peace and development, and to join hands with Taiwan in normalizing cross-strait relations. Peace and development are currently the common language of both sides of the Taiwan Strait; moreover, normalization of cross-strait relations is the highest objective of the Taiwanese government's China policy. The establishment of a peaceful and stable framework for cross-strait interactions as proposed by President Chen in 2004 and the "construction of a framework for peaceful development of cross-strait relations" and the "conclusion of a peace agreement" as advocated by Chinese President Hu Jintao in his political report to the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China are conducive to constructive dialogue on peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan wholeheartedly welcomes this new development.

2. We appeal to the Beijing authorities to remove the political obstacle created by the “one China framework” so as to begin peaceful cross-strait dialogue and promote cross-strait development. For a long time, the Beijing authorities have been unwilling to face up to the fact of the existence of the Republic of China. They have unilaterally established the so-called “one China principle” and their constitution stipulates that "Taiwan is part of the sacred territory of the People's Republic of China." Furthermore, China has threatened to annex Taiwan by force and attempted to suffocate Taiwan's space for survival and development in the international arena. This is the biggest obstacle to the normalization of cross-strait relations as well as to cross-strait peace and development.

3. We appeal to the Beijing authorities to learn from past lessons, to stop intimidating Taiwan's democracy and to stop threatening international peace. In the next few months, Taiwan will hold two nationwide elections, one for legislators and another for president. We hope the Beijing authorities will learn from past lessons and not make irresponsible remarks on Taiwan's elections again nor attempt to interfere with the process or outcome of the elections. Otherwise they will only achieve the opposite effect, arousing stronger antipathy among the Taiwanese people while also exposing the Chinese authorities' anti-democracy and anti-human rights nature. In particular, the presidential election will be held in Taiwan concurrently with a referendum on joining the United Nations under the name of "Taiwan." This is an expression of the collective will of the Taiwanese people to join the United Nations, and it neither involves any changes to Taiwan's national title nor makes any changes in the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. We hope that the Beijing authorities can correctly understand this collective aspiration of the Taiwanese people, respect the Taiwanese people's demand for safeguarding the basic human rights of "health, life, security and peace," stop issuing threats on the referendum issue, and stop coercing other countries in the international community and the Taiwanese businesspeople in China into opposing the holding of the referendum.

4. We appeal to the Beijing authorities to immediately stop military intimidation against Taiwan and stop provocative actions that seek to unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. In the military aspect, China has steadily expanded military spending at a rapid double-digit annual pace over the past 18 years. Over the past seven years, the number of tactical ballistic missiles deployed along China’s southeast coast opposite Taiwan has increased nearly sevenfold to 1,328 missiles. On the diplomatic front, over the past three years there have been 110 examples involving China’s attempts at changing the status quo and at suppressing Taiwan in the international arena by every conceivable means. One recent example of this kind is that without Taiwan’s approval, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed eight Taiwanese ports under China in the WHO’s online International Health Regulations (IHR) Authorized Ports List. With regard to cross-strait relations, China has recently deliberated on the establishment of an “air defense identification zone” in the Taiwan Strait, the delimitation of a new civil air route west of the median of the Taiwan Strait, and other measures with a view to changing the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. China's military intimidation and its provocative actions aimed at unilaterally changing the status quo in the Taiwan Strait have caused Taiwan to suffer the crisis of "military and de jure annexation" by China. It is also a root cause of cross-strait confrontation and regional instability.

5. We appeal to the Beijing authorities to stop taking political considerations in mind and to promptly resume negotiations on the many technical matters regarding cross-strait economic and trade exchanges. In January 2005, both sides conducted successful negotiations on the Lunar New Year charter flights; and in November 2005 and June 2006, both sides held another round of successful negotiations on the Lunar New Year charter flights and affirmed their consensus on the implementation of four types of specialized charter flights, respectively. Since January 2007, China has unilaterally set up political obstacles in an attempt to influence Taiwan's election results, preventing both sides from concluding negotiations on the issues of the opening up of tourism in Taiwan for Chinese tourists and the implementation of passenger and cargo charter flights. Looking ahead to a brand-new year, we appeal to China to resume negotiations as soon as possible on technical matters that involve the rights and interests of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, and to stop incessant politically-motivated interferences and delays. This is the only way to truly safeguard the basic rights and interests of the people on both sides across the Strait and to take resolute strides toward cross-strait peace and development.