Taipei, Beijing should exchange offices

The China Post news staff

Since Ma Ying-jeou took over as the new president last week, hopes are high that long-chilled relations between Taipei and Beijing will finally thaw. Since the news broke that Beijing is ready to re-start the process of regular cross-strait negotiations and dialogue, government officials have laid out a wide variety of goals they hope to achieve in terms of cross-strait relations. Some of these goals have included starting cross-strait charter flights by early July, opening direct cross-strait sea cargo transport links, and permitting more mainland Chinese tourists to make Taiwan trips. One of the goals that most interests us is for both sides to establish representative offices in each other’s territory. This idea, which was most recently put forth by Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan, is long overdue and well worth pursuing. According to Lai’s position, the government here would welcome the intermediary organizations representing both sides in negotiations to set up representative offices in each other’s territory. This means that Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) would open an office in mainland China, while Beijing’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) would do the same in Taiwan. We would like to see such offices opened, as well as numerous branch offices at various locations. Opening such offices would greatly help our government maintain constant communications with Beijing. At present, a simple and often-photographed fax machine at the SEF’s Taipei hedquarters, as well as its mysterious counterpart at ARATS, serve as the only communication link between both sides.

Having a representative office in mainland China would enable our government to provide quicker help to Taiwan residents who get sick, run into trouble or experience other problems in mainland China. Having the ARATS office in Taiwan would provide similar services for mainland Chinese in Taiwan, who will be coming in larger numbers soon.

In addition, Taiwanese who need to get to the mainland quickly in an emergency would have a place to go to get the required travel documents, and vice-versa. Both sides should be allowed to operate service counters in major airports that can issue travel documents, such as how the mainland’s China Travel Service operates at Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok International Airport.