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Taiwan tells China passport issue could hurt cross-strait ties

ROC Central News Agency

2012/12/13 21:20:33

Taipei, Dec. 13 (CNA) Taiwan has taken a firm stance on a controversial passport issue, making it clear to China that the matter could harm cross-strait relations, the head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Wang Yu-chi said Friday.

Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Lin Join-sane and Deputy Mainland Affairs Minister Chang Hsien-yao, in a recent meeting with China's top cross-strait negotiator, mentioned the fact that China's new passport bears images of two famous tourist destinations in Taiwan, along with major China attractions such as Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall, Wang told lawmakers.

The two Taiwan officials also pointed out that the passport bears the imprint of a map that includes almost all the disputed islands in the South China Sea, Wang said in response to lawmakers' questions at the Legislature.

'The issue could harm cross-strait relations,' the two Taiwan officials told Chen Yunlin, chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, according to Wang.

Taiwan 'hopes (China) will be more careful in the future,' they said.

Lin and a Taiwanese delegation are in China on a six-day visit that included a meeting with Chen in Shanghai on Tuesday.

Wang said that with the issue of the new passport on May 15, China ignored the fact that Taiwan and China have been governed separately for more than six decades.

The move has sparked controversy in Taiwan, he added.

The MAC hopes China will face 'the reality of the Republic of China's existence and our established foundation, and avoid provoking any disputes,' Wang said in a special presentation at the Legislature.

Legislator Chiang Chi-chen of the ruling Kuomintang said the passport issue has raised doubts about the 'communication between Taiwan and China.'

He asked why China did not inform Taiwan in advance, assuming that there is mutual trust.

The lawmaker asked the MAC to come up with concrete plans within a week to deal with the controversy.

The passport issue has also drawn protests from the Philippines and Vietnam, two of the countries that lay claim to the islands in the South China Sea either fully or partially. The other claimants are Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

As part of its protest, the Philippines is refusing to stamp on the new Chinese passports.

'We hardly noticed the changes on the China passport' since Chinese travelers to Taiwan usually do not use passports but rather a Mainland Residents Taiwan Pass issued by China's immigration authorities, Wang said.

If China includes similar images on the passes, 'we will definitely lodge a strong protest and take counteracting measures,' Wang said, in response to a question on that possibility by DPP Legislator Lin Chia-lung.

In a statement issued Dec. 7, the MAC said China's move 'completely ignores reality, only provokes disputes and harms the basis of mutual trust that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have been striving to build in recent years.'

Wang said it was the 'sternest language' used toward China since he took up his post more than two months ago.

Turning to questions on a proposal for Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan, Wang said the Taiwan government is assessing the matter from all angles and weighing the overall situation based on national interests.

'It would be better if he came at a time convenient to the host and the guests,' Wang said.

However, Wang did not respond directly to a question on why the government had recently turned down a proposal for the Dalai Lama to attend the 2012 Asia Pacific Regional Conference of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, in Taiwan.

In contrast, Sun Yafu, deputy director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, was allowed to visit Taiwan and to make remarks that 'infringed on Taiwan's sovereignty,' said opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Chi-chang.

In response, Wang said Sun was speaking at a non-governmental academic conference and his speech had no bearing on the Taiwan government's position.

(By Chen Hung-chin and Kendra Lin)
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