Proposal for private strait talks downplayed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 12:00am

A Beijing scholar yesterday downplayed moves by Taiwan officials to amend legislation to allow private groups to take part in cross-strait negotiations.

Professor Zhu Xianlong, of Beijing Union University, said he feared officials in Taipei would continue to influence negotiations regardless of proposed law changes.

Amendments have been proposed by Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council that would allow the quasi-official Strait Exchange Foundation to entrust private groups to handle negotiations with the mainland. At present, the foundation is the only body legally authorised to handle such negotiations.

However, the amendments are only in their first draft and have not yet been reviewed by lawmakers.

Professor Zhu said: 'It must be made clear whether officials in Taiwan will continue to play a dominant role if the future negotiations are being handled by these private bodies.'

Debate over the foundation's authority started early this summer when both sides of the Taiwan Strait expressed interest in opening discussions on the resumption of direct transport and commercial links.

Professor Zhu yesterday also expressed reservations over the foundation's future role in the negotiations.

He expected the quasi-official body would not play a pivotal role in the negotiations and maintained the mainland side would not want official or even 'semi-official' contact with the island.

He said that in future negotiations, foundation representatives would be able to participate as experts and scholars but the mainland side would not recognise them as formal members of the negotiation teams.