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CAB's senior officials handle Taiwan affairs

At the Special Finance Committee meeting of the Legislative Council today (March 24), the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam emphasised that the Constitutional Affairs Bureau (CAB) would handle Taiwan affairs in accordance with Vice Premier Qian's seven principles and that, as necessary, Taiwan matters would be handled by a directorate officer.

Mr Lam said that there had been steady progress in exchanges between Hong Kong and Taiwan. Last year, about 2.4 million Taiwan people visited Hong Kong, representing an increase of 25% when compared with days before reunification. Since the introduction of electronic entry permits last year, more than 150,000 Taiwan people had made their applications under the new system.

Every week, there were 310 flights between the two places, an increase of more than 70 flights as compared with 1997. That was representative of the broad direction of the increase in economic and trade exchanges between the two places as a whole.

On Taiwan matters handled by CAB, Mr Lam quoted the following examples -

(a) the Guangdong/Hong Kong/Taiwan Economic Cooperation Forum, held last August in Hong Kong, was initiated by the Government and co-organised with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and its Guangdong counterpart. CAB was involved in the process;

(b) last year, a group of Hong Kong fishermen sought our assistance when a typhoon was moving closer to the Taiwan Straits. We helped the fishermen to seek shelter in Taiwan. We did this through our liaison channel with the Taiwan organisations in Hong Kong; and

(c) information on mattes relating to the recent pneumonia cases provided by Department of Health was passed to the relevant Taiwan authorities through CAB.

On briefing visitors on the successful implementation of the "One Country, Two Systems" concept, Mr Lam referred to the example of arranging a programme for Taiwanese politicians, business leaders and academics to visit Hong Kong on the occasion of the fifth anniversary celebrations of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

He said that over 130 Taiwan people took part in the Guangdong/Hong Kong/Taiwan Economic Cooperation Forum held last year. We also made use of this opportunity to update participants on the latest developments in Hong Kong.

As for the liaison between CAB and Taiwan organisations in Hong Kong, day to day matters were dealt with by a directorate officer. As necessary, more senior officers would liaise with the Chung Hwa Travel Agency. For example, our Permanent Secretary met with Mr Chang Liang-jen. Mr Lam said, "We will, on a need basis, assign officers at appropriate level to deal with Taiwan affairs. If necessary, as Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, I will also attend to the issues personally. However, until now, no such need has arisen."

End/Monday, March 24, 2003