Leadership changes expected in SEF

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 12:00am

Taipei will shuffle the leadership of the quasi-official agency in charge of cross-strait negotiations amid speculation that a senior legislator with the ruling party will become the island's top envoy to the mainland.

Shi Hwei-yow, secretary-general of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), confirmed changes were being made to the agency.

'The Straits Exchange Foundation is preparing a reshuffle in early November but I have not yet heard about [the details],' Mr Shi told the South China Morning Post last night.

Mr Shi refused to comment on a report carried by Taiwan's United Daily Evening News yesterday, which said Chang Chun-hung, 64, a legislator with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, would replace Koo Chen-fu, 85, a Kuomintang heavyweight, to become chairman of the foundation.

The United Daily Evening News also said Mr Shi was expected to step down, but he declined to respond to the speculation.

The report said Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's decision to replace the key negotiator comes in anticipation of the revival of direct flights and trading links with the mainland.

Direct cross-strait trade and flights ended when Taiwan split from the mainland in 1949.

Taipei is drafting legislation authorising the foundation to lead the island's flight and trading associations in talks with their mainland counterparts.

Mr Koo has been chairman of the foundation since 1991. He represented Taiwan in negotiations with his mainland counterpart, Wang Daohan, chairman of the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait.

Mr Koo met Mr Wang twice, once in 1993 in Singapore and then in 1998 in Shanghai.

Further meetings were called off by Beijing in 1999 when Taiwan's president at the time, Lee Teng-hui, said cross-strait negotiations should be conducted on a state-to-state equal footing, a position contradicting Beijing's view that Taiwan is part of China.

Zhu Xianlong, a Beijing-based Taiwan expert, dismissed the significance of changes in the foundation, saying it was unlikely that mainland officials would change their minds and talk with the body until Taiwan accepted the 'one China' principle.