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Briefing Room

MAC News Briefing Aug 27, 2009

  • Date:2009-08-27

Subjects:
  • Changes in mainland Chinese SARA official’s ceremonial schedules are not due to Dalai Lama’s Taiwan visit
  • The MAC expresses thanks to the Mainland side for its donations and concerns;the government will continue cross-strait communications through the SEF regarding the use of disaster relief materials and the donation money
  • The official channels of accepting donations are through the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China and the SEF
  • There is currently no message indicating that the commencement of regular cross-strait flights would be postponed
  • The SEF and the ARATS have yet to engage in communications regarding the mainland Chinese team’s participation in the opening ceremony of the Deaflympics

MAC Regular Press Briefing

     MAC Regular Press Briefing
Briefer : Johnnason Liu, Deputy Minister
Date : August 27, 2009
Location : Taipei

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

QUESTION: In what capacity would the Dalai Lama be visiting Taiwan?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU: This question will be confirmed only after the Dalai Lama has filed the application to visit Taiwan. In the past, the Dalai Lama had applied to visit Taiwan twice, and his visas had been issued with assistance from the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission (MTAC) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

QUESTION: Would the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan cause a negative influence on the upcoming cross-strait legislative exchange delegation, the fourth Chiang-Chen Talks, or the signing of ECFA?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU:

■ The SEF has previously pointed out that, due to the August 8 Floods, the visit to mainland China by Taiwan’s legislative exchange delegation would be rescheduled to a more suitable time, and that this year’s media exchange delegation would probably be canceled. As for the fourth Chiang-Chen Talks, we will consider this issue from the overall perspective based on the current disaster relief situation. However, both sides have not yet undergone communication or discussion regarding the setting of the venue and schedule for the fourth Chiang-Chen Talks.

■ The Dalai Lama is greatly revered in the religious circle and could serve as the religious and spiritual support for the victims of the disaster. The Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan has a positive significance on the civil society. It shouldn’t cause much influence on cross-strait relations.

QUESTION: Did the MAC provide any opinions regarding whether or not the government should allow the Dalai Lama to come to Taiwan?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU: During the overall evaluation conducted under the government mechanism yesterday (August 26, 2009), the government did solicit the opinions of relevant agencies, and the decision was finally made by the Office of the President. However, when it comes to the MAC’s suggestions during the process, the MAC is not in a position to make a public explanation.

QUESTION: If the Dalai Lama could be allowed to come to Taiwan for humanitarian reasons, why can’t we similarly use humanitarian reasons as justification to allow Mainland choppers to come to Taiwan for disaster relief?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU:

■ The Dalai Lama was invited to Taiwan to attend a ceremony to expiate the sins of the dead, and to pray for the victims of the disaster. The government will provide various types of assistance for the Dalai Lama’s Taiwan visit due to humanitarian and religious considerations. For a long time, religion has always been the core of human life. This is especially true in times of disaster. Religion has always been a very important support that victims need to stand up again and face life and its difficulties. From this perspective, we welcome everyone. This is also the case with the director of mainland China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), Ye Xiaowen, who applied to come to Taiwan to join some prayer ceremonies.

■ However, religious events and disaster relief are two different things. Disaster relief is planned by the Central Emergency Operation Center (CEOC) according to the overall needs of the disaster area. The government’s approach to dealing with the disaster relief assistance to be provided by the Mainland is that we will inform the CEOC of the Mainland’s willingness to provide resources, so that the CEOC can evaluate the overall disaster relief situation. After the CEOC’s evaluation, we inform the Mainland what items we require. It is also our hope that we can provide assistance as best we can to the disaster area through various kinds of resources and channels, and that we can help victims overcome their difficulties as soon as possible to enable them to lead a more comfortable life after rebuilding their lives.

Changes in mainland Chinese SARA official’s ceremonial schedules are not due to Dalai Lama’s Taiwan visit

QUESTION: When did Ye Xiaowen, director of mainland China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), apply to come to Taiwan? Has it already been decided that in what capacity he will be visiting Taiwan and what kind of schedule he will be having? Will this be affected by the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU:

■ According to the National Immigration Agency, we understand that Ye Xiaowen has filed his application to come to Taiwan before mid-August. This will be Director Ye’s 7th trip to Taiwan. All of his trips have been made in his capacity as SARA director.

■ Regarding Director Ye’s schedule in Taiwan, with the assistance of religious entities, the information about prayer ceremonies has long been made public. As such, Director Ye has expressed his desire to attend these ceremonies, and has applied to attend two prayer ceremonies during his stay, one in Taichung and the other in Linkou. On August 26, Director Ye applied for a change in activities related to the prayer ceremony to be held in Taichung. Director Ye Xiaowen, together with five other people, originally applied to attend the event to be held in Linkou, but later on it was his deputy director that would attend the event instead. As such, Director Ye himself will not attend the event. The NIA already replied regarding this matter on August 24. Their prayer ceremony schedules (including Director Ye’s) were not affected by the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan.

■ Additionally, Director Ye will also pay courtesy visits to some temples, but he has no plans to visit the disaster areas. The date of the Dalai Lama’s visiting schedule in Taiwan has not been confirmed yet, so it is uncertain whether there would be an overlap in their schedules.

QUESTION: The Ministry of the Interior will hold a National Memorial Ceremony for August 8th Floods at Kaohsiung Arena on September 7. Will the MOI take the initiative in inviting the mainland Chinese SARA Director Ye to attend the event?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU: Regarding the persons to be invited to attend religious activities, the competent government agency will respect the opinions of related temples. If any temple plans to file an application to invite religious figures outside of Taiwan, the government would be willing to lend their support.

The MAC expresses thanks to the Mainland side for its donations and concerns; the government will continue cross-strait communications through the SEF regarding the use of disaster relief materials and the donation money

QUESTION: According to media reports, the land originally reserved for prefabricated houses will be used to build permanent houses over there; therefore, technical personnel from the Mainland have stopped construction at the moment. Some people said that through the SEF, the Mainland has requested to send high-ranking personnel to come to Taiwan to engage in communications. Is this true?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU:

■ The initial plan regarding the building of prefabricated houses by Mainland technical personnel is that they would build a sample house to help their Taiwanese counterparts understand the building process to speed up the following building process. However, disaster victims in some areas have different ideas and perceptions regarding the choice of prefabricated residences. This is because the housing aid provided by the government to disaster victims has increased from NT$6,000 to NT$10,000, and the period of subsidy has extended from six months to two years. Thus, some of the residents have differing ideas about living in a rental house in the future, and fewer people are opting for prefabricated houses. In turn, this also causes difficulties for local township offices in achieving consensuses among disaster victims. However, there remain some townships that requested the use of prefabricated houses, and the Construction and Planning Agency under the Ministry of the Interior (CPAMI) will transport the prefabricated houses to areas that need them, and make the best use of them.

■ From the perspective of the disaster victims, when it comes to whether or not the prefabricated houses should be built, the key issue lies in whether these houses can be fully utilized by those who need them. Thus, the CPAMI is engaging in communications and discussions with local governments in this regard. The MAC will discuss with the CPAMI at the soonest possible time to ascertain the building locations of these prefabricated houses so that disaster victims could understand this kind gesture from the Mainland. The MAC will also explain the situation to the Mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) through the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).

■ Moreover, the SEF once mentioned that some schools have suggested that four prefabricated houses could be connected together so that they can be properly used by the school. We have forwarded these suggestions to the Ministry of Education, and the MOE is currently evaluating the situation. Regarding the suggestion that some of the prefabricated houses be used for educational purposes, the CPAMI will contact local educational entities and is handling related matters in this direction.

QUESTION: Yesterday (August 26), mainland China’s Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council invited all Taiwanese reporters stationed in Beijing for a closed-door meeting. During the meeting, they expressed their dissatisfaction regarding the treatment their disaster relief team received, as well as complaints regarding how they were ignored despite their good intentions to help with disaster relief. What is the MAC’s response in this regard?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU:

■ When ARATS representatives came to Taiwan, there was a donation ceremony regarding the prefabricated houses and blankets. They also donated US$30,000 that will be distributed to Kaohsiung County’s Siaolin Village by the SEF. At the time, they had requested to visit the disaster area. However, during that time, due to the fact that the country was busy trying to conduct its disaster relief duties, the MAC and the SEF have expressed appreciation to the ARATS on behalf of the victims, but had yet to arrange them to visit the disaster area at the time.

■ Regarding the Mainland’s donation of prefabricated houses, the government is evaluating the situation based on the actual demands of the disaster victims. Since the government has leniently handled the aid given to the disaster victims, there will be a change in the use of prefabricated houses to meet the demands. Regarding alternative uses of prefabricated houses, we will fully understand the Mainland’s opinions and also ask the SEF to improve communications regarding matters that could cause misunderstanding. With regard to other disaster relief materials, the Mainland has mentioned several donation items and Taiwan has presented its demands based on evaluations made by the Central Emergency Operation Center (CEOC). The SEF has made explanations regarding these points in many occasions, and we believe the Mainland can understand this.

■ In the course of disaster relief, the government mechanism has to face many problems. It is difficult to give a proper response to all aspects of the problems, and the MAC has also requested the SEF to reinforce communications with the Mainland side and explain the situation to its counterpart in the Mainland to avoid causing perplexities.

QUESTION: How much did Taiwan donate to the Mainland during the Wenchuan Earthquake? How much did the ARATS donate to Taiwan for the August 8 Floods up until this point? Is there a time lag between both sides in remitting the disaster relief donations?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU:

■ During the Wenchuan Earthquake, Taiwan donated more than NT$7 billion to mainland China. Currently, we have some difficulty in calculating the amount we received from Mainland donations for the August 8 Floods, however, because both the donation announcements we received actually and those reported by the media have to be taken into consideration. The rough estimate is around NT$4 billion.

■ We have confirmed the amount of Mainland donations made through the SEF; as were donations from Hong Kong made through the Hong Kong Affairs Bureau of the MAC. The MAC has no idea of the accurate figures regarding donations made through the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China because the Red Cross Society has yet to provide an accurate amount at the moment due to its inability to spare no effort calculating the amount of Mainland donations, especially since the main focus of the Red Cross Society at this point is on disaster relief. Moreover, the Ministry of the Interior received an even larger amount of donations. As such, it will take some time to confirm the sources of donations.

■ Additionally, some of the donations that come from the Mainland’s civilian sector were offered in hopes of meeting the immediate emergency needs of the flood victims. Other donations, however, were made with the hope that they can be used for a long period of time; that is, donations of this kind are only to express Mainland donors’ willingness to donate money first and the rough figure of their donations. The actual money would not come in until the concrete items have been subsequently finalized. In other words, emphasis is placed on subsequent reconstruction work. Donations from the Mainland will come in through the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China or through the MOI; however, a larger portion of donations remains at the stage where Mainland donors have voiced their willingness to make donations, but they are still looking for the counterpart entities to handle the donations.

■ Regarding the issue of when the money was transferred, during the Wenchuan Earthquake, many Taiwanese immediately voiced their willingness to donate money. However, at that time, the SEF and the ARATS have not yet resumed institutionalized negotiations, thus making it difficult for both sides to engage in communications. Nevertheless, the government actively voiced its concern. Last May, the Executive Yuan opened up a bank account for donations; in June last year, the information was conveyed through the first round of Chiang-Chen Talks; and afterwards, communication and negotiations were established between the SEF and the ARATS, and the two entities have confirmed in early August last year that the donations would be used to “rebuild the community” and “reconstruct schools.” Regarding the August 8 Floods, there have been many voices of various sectors in the Mainland proclaiming their willingness to make donations; however, further observations are needed regarding the actual amount of the donations and the actual date the donations will be received. All in all, the disaster relief activities in these two situations were different in terms of time and space.

QUESTION: Mainland China hopes to receive a list detailing the areas where their donations would go before they transfer the money. What is the MAC’s response in this regard?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU: The government has already formed a reconstruction committee. The government must first communicate with the disaster victims within the mechanism before it will be able to confirm their demands at the soonest possible time. The MAC and the SEF will have concerns about the progress. As long as we have a grasp of the items on the list, we will engage in overall coordination with the reconstruction committee regarding its plans and communicate our needs to the Mainland.

The official channels of accepting donations are through the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China and the SEF

QUESTION: Regarding the donations received by Legislator Gao Jin Su Mei from the Taiwan Work Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in the Mainland, are these donations already received and are currently being distributed? Has the Taiwanese government informed the afore-mentioned Taiwan Work Office in the Mainland, whether through formal or informal channels, that this is not a very friendly gesture, and that it is an infringement on the ROC’s sovereignty?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU:

■ Regarding the donations received by Legislator Gao Jin Su-Mei from the Taiwan Work Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in the Mainland, we currently do not have the channel to understand how much progress she has achieved in handling related matters.

■ The MAC has requested the SEF to inform the Mainland side that the official channels for donations to Taiwan are through the special accounts opened by the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China and the SEF.

There is currently no message indicating that the commencement of regular cross-strait flights would be postponed

QUESTION: Is the commencement of regular cross-strait flights postponed from late August to September 20?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU: There is no such message at the moment. Relevant agencies are coordinating with each other regarding the allocation of flights among different airlines. Since the results have yet to be confirmed, we cannot make a public announcement on this issue.

The SEF and the ARATS have yet to engage in communications regarding the mainland Chinese team’s participation in the opening ceremony of the Deaflympics

QUESTION: Will the mainland Chinese team attend the opening ceremony of the Deaflympics?

DEPUTY MINISTER LIU: The SEF and the ARATS have not engaged in communications regarding this issue.

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