Push to prevent spate of hijacks
THE head of a Chinese quasi-official body on cross-Strait matters urged Taiwan to separate politics from the issue of repatriating hijackers to help stop air piracy.
Wang Daohan, the chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), was speaking at the end of a directors' meeting in Beijing.
According to the China News Service (CNS), Mr Wang said the repatriation of hijackers was ''complicated'' by Taiwan's insistence on its right to exercise legal jurisdiction over the hijackers on the island.
''By mixing political issues, such as the power of legal jurisdiction, with procedural matters, it makes it difficult to solve the procedural matters,'' he said.
Mr Wang insisted that hijacking was a criminal offence and should fall within the Quemoy agreement signed by the two sides earlier on the repatriation of cross-strait criminals.
Like any other criminals, hijackers should be sent back in accordance with the deal, he said.
Taiwan, however, argued that hijackers should be put on trial in Taiwanese courts.
A record number of 10 hijacking incidents occurred last year, straining ties between the two sides despite progress in exchanges at the unofficial level between ARATS and its Taiwanese counterpart, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).
Mr Wang claimed that the ''leniency'' given to hijackers was the main cause of last year's spate of hijackings.
Mr Wang flatly dismissed as ''groundless'' Taiwanese newspaper reports that the Chinese Government would deploy jet fighters to intercept aircraft being hijacked, even if they had already entered Taiwan's airspace.
The ARATS head said Beijing was willing to discuss ''political issues'' with Taipei at any time.
Unofficial talks on cross-strait matters have been speeded up following the summit between Mr Wang and Koo Chen-foo, the SEF chief, in Singapore last May.
Mr Wang said he was hoping for an early second round of ''Wang-Koo'' talks, which he said should take place in Beijing or Taipei.
He vowed to facilitate economic exchanges and co-operation across the strait and push for early discussions on the details of the issue this year.
Mr Wang promised to help the mainland authorities give greater protection to Taiwanese investments.
According to another CNS report, ARATS has been restructured to meet its growing workload, especially regarding economic and trade links.
The chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade and Industries, Jing Shuping, and Zheng Hongye, head of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, have been named as advisers.
Two more departments - economics and research - have been established.