A senior official from the Boao Forum lashed out at a Taiwanese newspaper yesterday for reporting that the island's vice-president-elect, Vincent Siew Wan-chang, had bought his way to better status at the forum.
Mr Siew has sat in the third row in the past but this year he was in the front row.
The secretary general of the Boao Forum for Asia, Long Yongtu, said it was absurd that the Taiwanese media had made such a big deal of the issue. He said the Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation had paid the money in question as a deposit to become a member of the forum.
Mr Long's remark was in response to the article published by the Taipei-based pro-independence Liberty Times yesterday.
The report said the foundation headed by Mr Siew paid US$250,000 for its 'grade diamond membership', which boasts the right to have a front seat at the convention as well as attend an evening fireworks show.
'I'm afraid the performance of a few individuals will tarnish the image of Taiwan's media,' Mr Long said, adding that the report had already had repercussions.
'Even one report can create a negative effect,' he snarled at reporters. 'It's not a matter of the minority making such reports. There have been many unworthy and meaningless stories which are hyped up by the media.'
Mr Long stressed that the status of the membership of the Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation had nothing to do with the US$250,000 deposit.
Mr Siew said he was saddened by the report.
He emphasised that the foundation had been a member of the Boao Forum and had paid the US$250,000 in 2001 as a guarantee fund when Boao was established.
Mr Long said: 'Offering him a relatively higher-ranking treatment has nothing to do with the fee for basic membership.'