Taiwan looks into legality of its residents in mainland China public posts

The island's government is looking into the legality of its residents taking up public positions across the strait as relations improve

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 April, 2013, 6:40am


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Taiwan is examining the legality of its people holding public office on the mainland, its bitter rival before cross-strait reconciliation in 2008.

Such public posts include those on the local and national committees of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), local people's congresses and as consultants and deputy chiefs of local administrations.

With cross-strait relations warming by the day, more mainland-based Taiwanese, especially businesspeople, have been willing to take up posts that further their interests.

But Taiwan law bars Taiwanese from holding mainland public posts as long as the two sides remain technically at war, meaning Beijing is still Taipei's enemy.

This state of affairs existed from the end of the civil war in 1949 until the conciliatory Ma Ying-jeou became president in 2008 and adopted a policy of mainland engagement. Since then, 18 non-political co-operation agreements have been signed between the two sides.

Despite thawing ties, Taipei and Beijing have yet to sign a formal peace pact, although both agree to promote the peaceful development of relations.

The Ma government has come under fire from the opposition, pro-independence camp for "turning a blind eye" to the growing number of Taiwanese taking up mainland posts.

"Besides conflict of national interests, this also involves the issue of loyalty," said Chen Chi-mai, a legislator of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

"China has long wanted to place Taiwan under its fold, and so far has not renounced the use of force against us," he said, adding the Ma government must punish those taking up public posts on the mainland.

Under the Cross-Strait People's Relations Act, government officials taking up mainland public posts face a year in prison, while ordinary citizens can face repeated fines of NT$500,000 (HK$130,000) until they give up the posts.

According to Taiwan's National Security Bureau, 169 Taiwanese accepted posts last year in mainland government agencies and Communist Party organs. But the Mainland Affairs Council, which charts Taiwan's policy towards the mainland, confirmed that its own investigations revealed 32 were suspected of taking up posts.

"Of the 32, six have not been punished, while the rest are still being investigated," council spokeswoman Wu Mei-hung said.

She said no action would be taken against the six, either because they did not have full Taiwan citizenship, including completion of their household registration in Taiwan, or because their posts were nominal.

The six include businesswoman Huang Tzu-yu, who has been a member of the CPPCC national committee for three terms, and was re-elected for another five-year term in February.

"Huang does not have a household registration in Taiwan, and therefore she is among the six exempted from punishment," Wu said.

Huang, 72, became the first Taiwanese to serve as a CPPCC national committee delegate when she took up the post in 1998.

She was given the post as a resident of Hong Kong - a status she earned through years of doing business in the city.

Meanwhile, the council spokeswoman said it was still investigating the case of Shally Wu, a well-known journalist with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV who was recently re-elected to the Guangdong conference as a Hong Kong resident.

Shally Wu, a former anchor for Taiwan's Chinese Television Service who moved to Hong Kong 14 years ago, earned fame for being complimented by then premier Zhu Rongji on her "good work" during a press conference in Beijing.

When asked by reporters about her chances of being fined, Wu said all she wanted from her post in the Guangdong CPPCC was the chance to "put forward proposals to help people".

Wu Mei-hung, however, said authorities would deal with each case "very carefully" to avoid "making mistakes".

Cases such as Shally Wu's would have to consider such things as whether the posts offered political power or monetary rewards, Wu Mei-hung said.

Businesswoman Lin Chia-jung, however, cried foul.

"I haven't received a single cent from my post," said 41-year-old Lin, head of the women affairs committee of the Taiwanese Businesspeople Association in Dongguan, Guangdong.

Lin could face rolling fines of up to NT$500,000 for serving as a delegate of the Dongguan conference since 2007.

"I am doing this for the sake of the interests of Taiwanese businesspeople in Dongguan," said Lin, one of the Taiwanese being singled out by the pro-independence camp for accepting mainland posts.

DPP legislators have often used Lin's case to chide the Ma government.

Wu Mei-hung, however, said that while Lin's case was being investigated, the government had taken a more liberal stand.

She said people serving in local-level political consultative conferences or mainland advisory bodies would be spared because these were considered consultant or honorary posts.