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Taiwan OKS Mayoral Visits To China

July 15, 2000

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ In its latest goodwill gesture to China, Premier Tang Fei said Saturday that Taiwan will allow its mayors to visit the mainland and will welcome visits from Chinese mayors.

Laws will be revised to sanction the mayoral visits and government approval will be granted if Taiwan’s sovereignty and dignity can be ensured, Tang said at a meeting with Taiwanese mayors.

Although hundreds of Taiwanese tourists and investors visit China daily, the island’s laws do not allow officials in sensitive positions _ including Cabinet ministers and vice ministers _ to freely travel to China.

Chinese mayors have visited Taiwan, but only as professionals to promote trade or cultural exchanges, not in their official capacity.

Last week, the mayor of Taiwan’s second-largest city, Kaohsiung, Frank Hsieh, canceled plans to make a historic visit to China because he could not get government permission in time.

Hsieh also advised the mayor of China’s southern Xiamen city, Zhu Yayan, this week to postpone a visit to Taiwan, noting authorities would need more time to process his visa application. Zhu has said he planned to visit July 18-20.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949 and there are no official contacts. Taiwan fears that the mayoral visits would boost Beijing’s propaganda campaign against the island.

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