Kaohsiung official apologizes for purported cross-strait maritime route

The southern city’s tourism bureau director attended the launch ceremony for a new, non-existent maritime route from Kaohsiung to China

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(Screen capture from KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun)

(Screen capture from KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun)

[Last update: June 27 at 17:25]

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After a barrage of criticism directed against Kaohsiung’s Director of Tourism Bureau Pan Heng-hsu (潘恒旭) for promoting a purported travel link from the city to China, he apologized on Wednesday (June 26) and promised to take full responsibility.

Pan apologized in a Facebook post that he regretted causing turmoil and bringing trouble to the city government, saying “I sincerely apologize.”

On Tuesday, Pan attended a ceremony to celebrate the purported opening of a “mini three-links” between Qijin Harbor in Kaohsiung and Dongtou Harbor in Wenzhou City, China.

Pan insisted he attended the ceremony as a guest, and that neither he nor the city government had a role in organizing the event. He also said he would take full responsibility for the matter.

News of a supposed maritime route between Taiwan and China shocked the central government, which alone is empowered to handle cross-strait affairs according to bilateral agreements.

It also created fears that the launch of such a route could render epidemic prevention work vulnerable. Taiwan has been trying to stop pork products contaminated by African swine fever (ASF) from entering the country from China for the past year.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan’s top government agency handling cross-strait affairs, blasted the event as “politically manipulated fraud” with the aim of creating an illusion that Kaohsiung is making money through trade with China. MAC said this undermines the country’s sovereignty.

The shipping company involved was disbanded on June 12, and the two fishing vessels displayed at the ceremony do not even belong to the company, said MAC, via a statement issued on Tuesday (June 25).

Neither Qijin Harbor nor Dongtou Harbor in, Kaohsiung and Wenzhou City, respectively, have been designated as hubs for the mini three-links, said MAC, dismissing the possibility of launching such a route.

The opening of cross-strait maritime routes is managed by the central government in Taipei. Company representatives or local government officials would be strictly penalized if they attempted to set up routes without authorization, added MAC.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) also weighed in on the issue on Tuesday. He warned that legal action would be taken against anyone who tries to open up routes linking Taiwan to China without government permission.

On Wednesday, Kaohsiung City Councilor Lin Chih-hung (林智鴻) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) filed a complaint against Pan and Lee Wen-chung (李文忠), the proprietor of the shipping company. Lin accused them of treason and violating legislation governing the cross-strait relationship, reports said.