ARATS Chairman Chen calls off visit to Tainan

The China Post news staff

While it has been confirmed that Chairman Chen Yun-lin (陳雲林) of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, or ARATS, has called off his planned visit to the city of Tainan during his scheduled Feb. 23 trade trip to the southern part of the island, local media scrambled yesterday to figure out how the decision was made and why. Tainan was reportedly the single most important stop in Chen’s original southern Taiwan tour schedule that included visits to such local giants as the Uni-President Group and Chemei Co. The cancellation, according to some local media reports, was due to a call from Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-de (賴清德) to Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Vice Chairman Kao Kung-lien (高孔廉) expressing his concerns for Chen’s safety as more and more anti-China advocacy groups have geared up for rallies against the Chinese trade group’s Tainan visit. Both Mayor Lai and SEF’s Kao, however, rebutted the reports yesterday in unison, with the mayor denying he ever made call while Kao saying that Tainan was skipped due to Chen Yun-lin’s tight schedule and nothing else. Lai, whose Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) affiliation obviously made the episode even more intriguing, was reported saying yesterday that his city welcomed visitors from all walks of life for trade and for sightseeing. “But a person of Chairman Chen’s status would require a level of protection that only the central government can provide,” and “the police force in Tainan will help the best we can.” If the reported call from Lai to SEF’s Kao was true, it represented a reversal on Lai’s part of his initial position of welcoming the visit, in public, by the Chinese trade group with open arms, a stance that has been attacked several time by members from his own party.

Kuomintang (KMT) members reacted bitterly yesterday to the cancellation news.

“It’s hypocritical,” said KMT legislator and party caucus Vice Secretary Chou Shou-hsun (周守訓) yesterday. “The mayor is playing a double-dealing game of saying welcome in public while at the same time doing absolutely nothing to stem the ‘riots’ by its own people.” “What’s happening in Tainan is not helping to reduce the tension across the straits,” Chou said. “The mayor will have to be responsible for the economic consequence regardless how the decision was made and by whom,” said KMT legislator Chiou Yi (邱毅), alluding to fact how Tainan could benefit from a visit by the Chinese trade group given its current gloomy economic situation. “But the mayor missed the boat by not doing anything to restrain his pro-independence constituents.”