China panda offer requires further discussion: Kaohsiung tourism head

A panda at Taipei Zoo (Photo/Taipei Zoo)

A panda at Taipei Zoo (Photo/Taipei Zoo)

A much-debated proposed offer of pandas from China to Kaohsiung will not be easy to become reality, because it would require the approval of at least three official bodies, an official in the southern Taiwan port city said Tuesday.

The offer will need permission from Kaohsiung City Council, China's National Forestry and Grassland Administration and China's Taiwan Affairs Office, Kaohsiung Tourism Bureau Director Pan Heng-hsu (潘恆旭) said.

Emphasizing that no official offer has yet been received, Pan said the city government plans to send a delegation to Chongqing Zoo in China's Sichuan Province in June and will organize an assessment team to discuss the issue.

Asked about the panda possibility, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) told the press Tuesday that the city government "welcomes pandas very much."

If the city council approves the offer, it is his administration's job to bring it to fruition, Han said.

The panda offer was proposed by Chinese National People's Congress member Xu Pei (許沛) in Beijing last Friday, according to China's state-run Global Times.

On Tuesday, Xu told Taiwanese media that the offer was simply "a personal suggestion." The media "may have over-interpreted" her comment, she said.

"The media should report on cross-Taiwan Strait exchanges objectively, based on facts," she said.

Xu was referring to heated discussions on her panda proposal in Taiwan media and an outcry of opposition on Weibo, a Chinese social media network, calling the panda offer excessively flattering to Taiwanese.

Whether, when and from which provinces any pandas should be sent to Kaohsiung "must be decided by the central government," Xu admitted.

Commenting on the offer, Taiwan's Council of Agriculture chief Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said that according to the Wildlife Conservation Act, the importation of wild animals also requires permission from the Forestry Bureau under the council.

The importation of wild animals can only be allowed for academic research or educational purposes, he pointed out.

In 2005, a Chinese offer of pandas to Taiwan was rejected by then- President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), a member of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Following the victory of the Kuomintang's Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in the 2008 presidential election, two giant pandas, named Yuan Yuan (圓圓) and Tuan Tuan (團團), were sent as a gift from Beijing.