Taiwan's mainland envoy forgoes visit to ancestral home

Taiwan envoy Lin Join-sane, who is seen as a 'blank slate', forgoes traditional visit to ancestral home during his first visit to mainland

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 October, 2012, 4:23am

Taiwan's new top mainland affairs negotiator, Lin Join-sane, did not visit his ancestral hometown in Fujian on his first trip to the mainland, which ends today.

Unlike his predecessor as chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), Chiang Pin-kung, who visited his ancestral home in Fujian's Pinghe county in 2006 when he was vice-chairman of the then opposition Kuomintang, Lin said he had no plans for ancestor worship.

"I come from a grass-roots family that doesn't have any ancestral tombs or even a clan hall on the mainland, unlike some wealthy houses," he said last week. "But I have read a lot about the mainland and I am looking forward to my trip because 'seeing is believing'."

Lin, appointed SEF chairman last month, led a 13-member delegation to the mainland on Tuesday for a six-day visit.

It was his first visit, and Taiwanese media have described him as a "blank slate" on mainland affairs due to his low public profile.

"If you ask Taiwanese people who Lin Join-sane is, I think no one could tell you," said Taipei-based political commentator Wang Hsing-ching, who writes under the name Nan Fang- shuo. "Even me, a scholar who has kept a close eye on cross-strait affairs, just know he is Vice-President Wu Den-yih's aide. That's all."

At a Taipei briefing before his trip, Lin joked about his close connection with Wu, saying the vice-president had even helped him out by drinking toasts at social gatherings. "I am only a social drinker, so I hope colleagues accompanying me [on this trip] will be ready to take liquor for me like Wu," Lin said.

Professor Xu Bodong , director of the Taiwan Institute at Beijing Union University, said Lin's limited appetite for liquor and low profile might be shortcomings for a mainland affairs negotiator, but being a "blank slate" meant he could correctly present Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's cross-strait policies to his mainland counterparts.

"Lin's predecessors like Chiang and Koo Chen-fu were all heavyweights and famous celebrities in Taiwan," Xu said. "But Ma is one of the younger generation in the ruling KMT, and he would not dare call those patriarchs and experienced cross-strait experts to account if they failed to get their jobs done.

"But Lin might be a competent representative of Ma because he came from Wu's camp."

Lin is also the first SEF chairman to receive a salary since it was founded in 1990, with Chiang amending its constitution before his resignation.

Chiang was accused of using his unpaid position to earn political credit in order to help his family's business, which was one of the key reasons there were calls for his resignation. Chiang later proposed that the chairman should be a paid to prevent any "groundless accusations".

Lin's salary has yet to be determined, with Taiwanese media saying it will have to be approved by the island's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) if it is higher than that of MAC chairman Wang Yu-chi, who earns about NT$190,000 (HK$50,000) a month.

Paul Lin, another Taipei-based political commentator, said: "Rumour has it that Lin's salary could be as high as NT$300,000 a month because it was part of a deal between him and Ma, who wanted him to resign from his previous job as secretary general of the KMT to cut off his connections with the ruling party. That's because the KMT's secretary general controls the party's resources.

"Lin was the key aide of Wu, who plans to succeed Ma and contest the next presidential election with Lin's help. But Ma doesn't want Wu to succeed him because the vice-president has been linked to many corruption scandals due to his close relations with corrupt officials and triad leaders."

Earlier this month, when lawmakers in the Legislative Yuan asked Lin about his salary, he refused to reveal how much he will earn but insisted it was reasonable for him to be paid.

"I was a clean-handed civil servant who has contributed my whole life," he said. "I decided to give up my pension after taking the SEF chairmanship.

"I am not greedy for money, but that doesn't mean I don't need money to support myself in retirement."