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MAC CHIEF URGES BEIJING TO RESUME TALKS AFTER LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS

2004-12-11 18:33:19

    Hong Kong, Dec. 11 (CNA) Taiwan's top mainland China policy formulator has urged Beijing to resume stalled cross-Taiwan Strait talks after Taiwan's legislative elections Saturday.

    Joseph Wu, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, made the remarks when he was interviewed by Ming Pao, a major Hong Kong daily.

    Wu noted that Taiwan has gone out of its way to look for issues that have few political implications, such as charter flights during the Chinese New Year holiday and cross-strait cargo charter flights, so as to avoid the talks between the two sides of the strait from breaking down yet again. "Once the issues with few political implications bear fruit, they will lay the basis for future talks," Wu said.

    He pointed out that Taiwan has responded to requests by Beijing on two-way cross-strait charter flights without rerouting via third places during the Chinese New Year holiday, and the question now is whether Beijing is willing to talk.

    Charter flights for Taiwan businessmen operating on the mainland were opened on a trial basis during the 2003 Chinese New Year holiday, but it was only one-way and had to make stopovers in Hong Kong or Macau. The service was disrupted for the 2004 holiday after both sides failed to discuss Beijing's request for two-way service without stopping over in third places.

    Wu said that past experience shows that as long as mainland China is willing to negotiate, a lot of issues can be handled in a flexible way. But if Beijing insists on accepting its "one China" concept as a prerequisite, it will continue to be a big hurdle for such talks.

    Taiwan has observed since late last year that the mainland has no intention to negotiate because the Beijing authorities are worried about uncertainty following the recent presidential elections in the United States, the Dec. 11 legislative elections in Taiwan, and the change of guard in the mainland leadership. "Now that all three factors have passed, it will be a good environment for both sides to resume talks, " Wu said.

    He also urged Hong Kong to set up a representative office in Taiwan, saying that it would further cement Taiwan-Hong Kong relations.

    He noted that Hong Kong's status changed after 1999, but "our Hong Kong policy or attitude toward Hong Kong has not changed. We continue to think Hong Kong is a very important place, especially because Hong Kong may be able to play a role when both sides of the Taiwan Strait still have no formal communication channel."

    He pointed out the close trade exchanges between the two places, with Hong Kong as the second-largest export destination for Taiwan, and its third-largest trading partner, with two-way trade surpassing US$30 billion. "From the angle of mutual benefits, we hope that Hong Kong can set up a representative office in Taiwan, " Wu said, adding that a lot of Hong Kong residents study in Taiwan, conduct business or go sightseeing there, and that if there was a representative office, administrative efficiency would be higher and relations between Taiwan and Hong Kong closer.

(By C.H. Lu and Lilian Wu)

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