Chinese Journalists Allowed into Taiwan But Red Cross Officials Barred
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ Two mainland Chinese journalists arrived in Taiwan today in the first such visit since 1949. But Taiwanese authorities barred two Chinese Red Cross officials from the trip in a last-minute dispute.
The Chinese journalists are to cover the trial of seven Chinese fishermen accused of piracy, who could face the death penalty. The barred Red Cross officials had hoped to look into the case.
The flap comes at a time when ties between China and Taiwan have been slowly improving. In past months, the Nationalist government has tried to ease tensions with China.
Although the Nationalist government still refuses to have official contacts with Beijing, it recently recognized the Communist government as a political entity and has asked China to end its policy of isolating Taiwan diplomatically.
China continues to consider Taiwan as a breakaway province and has blocked its efforts to enter international organizations.
However, it says it is ready to conduct direct trade with Taiwan. The Taiwanese government still refuses the offer.
At Hong Kong’s airport, the Red Cross officials said they believed Taiwan’s barring of the two Chinese officials would have ″a negative influence″ on exchanges between the two sides.
The seven Chinese fishermen have been detained since July 21 on charges of kidnapping and piracy, for which the maximum penalty is death. They say they were only trying to get compensation after a Taiwanese boat sliced through their fishing net.
Chinese officials have demanded that Taiwan release the fisherman. Taiwan sanctioned the visit by the Chinese journalists and Red Cross officials last week, but says it willl not negotiate over the trial or the return of the fishermen.
This morning, Taiwan revoked the travel permit for Chinese Red Cross deputy secretary-general Qu Zhe and Red Cross deputy director Zhuang Zhongzi, saying they had challenged the Nationalist government’s authority over the suspects.
″This was a misunderstanding on the open seas, not a crime,″ Qu said at the Hong Kong news conference. ″Our goal was to achieve an agreement and bring the fishermen home.″
The two Chinese journalists will cover the fishermen’s trial, scheduled to begin Wednesday.
″We’re happy to be here,″ Fan Liqing, 36, of the Xinhua News Agency, and Guo Weifeng, 34, of the China News Agency, told more than 100 Taiwanese reporters upon their arrival at the Taipei International Airport.
China has refused to take back 11 other members of the Chinese fishing crew, who were found innocent last week. It said all 18 should be returned together.