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Taipei mayor criticized for making inappropriate remarks

Taipei mayor criticized for making inappropriate remarks

Taipei, Jan. 26 (CNA) Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (???) came under fire Monday for his dismissive remarks on a gift presented by visiting U.K. Minister of State for Transport Baroness Kramer. Ko told reporters Monday that he intends to scrap a pocket watch gifted by Baroness Kramer, because he had "no use for it." The giving of watches is considered very inauspicious in Chinese culture. Presidential Office spokeswoman Ma Wei-kuo (???) said that President Ma Ying-jeou receives many gifts from nations with diplomatic ties with Taiwan and that regardless of the item's value, they represent the goodwill and respect of the nation's valued friends. The spokeswoman said it is inappropriate for the recipient to judge the usefulness of a gift based on personal views and values, and provided a number of examples. While the color white is considered to be ominous in Chinese culture as it hints of funeral services, the president has never turned away gifts from Japanese dignitaries, which are often wrapped in white, a color that symbolizes purity in Japan, she said. She added that American dignitaries prefer to give pins and buttons, and often insist on personally affixing them to Ma's jacket. According to the spokeswoman, these seemingly insignificant trinkets convey an important and special message and are not regarded as useless by the president. She noted that Taiwan's diplomatic ally Burkina Faso once gifted a white horse to Ma and that despite the difficulties of caring for such a prized animal, the Republic of China embassy in the African nation was instructed to accept the gift. Although the delicacy is virtually unknown in Taiwan, the president has also accepted 10 cases of smoked catfish from Gambia. Out of respect for diplomatic etiquette and foreign culture, the president has also accepted a leopard head from Swaziland, a symbol of the highest esteem in the southern African kingdom. In an exchange of honorary medals with the Marshall Islands, Taiwan received in return a chieftains' necklace made of the Micronesian nation's renowned shells, which the president accepted graciously. The Presidential Office spokeswoman, however, said that inappropriately expensive gifts are sometimes turned away, such as a package of facial masks valued at over NT$10,000 (US$319), and a Veluriyam bead artwork valued at NT$300,000. She also noted that gifts from foreign dignitaries do not become the personal property of the president and must be registered by the relevant government departments, with items deemed be high-value archived at Academia Historica (???). Items with no significant value, such as household goods, are donated to charity, she added. Meanwhile, Charles Chen (???), a spokesman for the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) said that in light of the difficulties faced by Taiwan in international relations, all gifts given by visiting foreign dignitaries should be treasured. Chen, who also serves as director of the KMT's International Affairs Department, posted a photo of a collection of gifts presented to the KMT by visiting foreign dignitaries in the past, saying that each item represents an affirmation of ties between Taiwan and her valued friends. Chen said that even seemingly insignificant items such as pins and buttons of political parties abroad are considered prized relics by the KMT and are registered among the ruling party's assets upon receipt. He said that these pins and buttons might also be worn in the future to give a special welcome when greeting visiting foreign dignitaries of the same political party. (By Claudia Liu and Ted Chen)


Updated : 2021-09-27 19:44 GMT+08:00