China mute over Taiwan's pleas to evacuate 400 citizens from Wuhan

China yet to respond to Taiwan's request to evacuate 400 citizens from Wuhan via charter jet

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Chiu Chui-cheng.

Chiu Chui-cheng. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As many countries such as the U.S. and Japan have begun evacuating their citizens from Wuhan due to the China coronavirus outbreak, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) on Thursday (Jan. 30) said it is trying to communicate with authorities in Beijing on evacuating some 400 Taiwanese citizens, but has yet to receive a definitive response.

At a press conference on Thursday, MAC Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) said that there are about 400 Taiwanese citizens in Wuhan who have requested assistance in evacuating from the city due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). In regards to media questions about the possibility of sending a charter jet to evacuate them from the city, Chiu said that the MAC is trying to communicate with Chinese authorities, but does not have any official commitment on the subject from Beijing.

Chiu said that from Jan. 24 to Jan. 30 alone, the MAC had received 252 calls on its emergency hotline and direct line regarding the evacuation of Taiwanese from Wuhan, reported Rti. He said that most of the calls were from families or friends of Taiwanese stranded in Wuhan requesting government help in evacuating them from the city.

He said that many of those stranded are in Wuhan for short-term business trips, tourism, and family visits. Those stranded report a lack of medications, uncertainty with accommodations, and concerns about healthcare.

Chiu pointed out that after receiving these calls, he expressed to his Chinese counterparts that the two sides should ensure the well being of Taiwanese citizens by maintaining existing communication channels on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, and also asked Chinese authorities for possible coordination methods. Chiu said that "If China really cares about the health rights and interests of our personnel, it should respond to our appeal as soon as possible and respond to our actual needs."

When asked about the use of a charter jet to evacuate Taiwanese citizens, Chiu said he will continue to communicate with his Chinese counterparts and explore possible solutions to safeguard the rights and interests of stranded Taiwanese. He went on to add that, "We have put forward various methods to China, including the use of a special plane to return [citizens] to Taiwan, epidemic prevention measures, and so on. We have put forward all kinds of measures, hoping to give some targeted assistance to ensure the health and safety of Taiwanese people staying in Mainland China," according to the report.

In regards to the number of Taiwanese in Wuhan, Chiu pointed out that according to the Wuhan Taiwanese Business Association, there are 4,000 Taiwanese businessmen Hubei Province, half of whom are in Wuhan. He said that most have already returned to Taiwan, but he estimates that about 400 remain.

On Tuesday (Jan. 28), the MAC announced that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) refused requests to allow Taiwanese to evacuate from Wuhan via charter flights. TAO Spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) issued a news release on Tuesday afternoon, stating that China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) received a letter from SEF at 6 p.m. on Monday (Jan. 29).

The news release stated that reports of negotiations for the return of Taiwanese in the nation's media did not reflect the real situation. Ma insisted that Taiwanese in Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located, have been well cared for.