Subject: CNA: Foreign Minister Expresses Regret over Horta Incident
Date: Sat, 28 Nov 1998 02:02:14 -0500
From: "Henry H. Tan-Tenn" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[Poster's note: Central News Agency (CNA) is a government-affiliated service, so the reconstructed story as told below is consistent with the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party's view: i.e. Horta's blacklisting as a terrorist had been lifted long ago rather than during his detention in the airport hotel, during which opposition politicians lambasted the government for its shameful behavior. Other sources report Taiwanese immigration officials complaining that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was laying the blame on them, etc. Also note that Taiwan is entering the last, feverish stage of election campaigning, and endorsement by an internationally well-known figure of a pro-Taiwan independence mayoral candidate was not something the Nationalist Party wanted to see.]
Foreign Minister Expresses Regret over Horta Incident
Taipei, Nov. 27 (CNA) Foreign Minister Jason Hu on Friday expressed regret over Timorese Nobel laureate Jose Ramos Horta's "entry permit incident." Hu said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) had never opposed Horta's entry to Taiwan since being informed by the Bureau of Entry and Exit of the Timorese separatist [sic] advocate's arrival. However, he added: "The ministry also has no intention of shirking its responsibility for the incident." The minister said an official with the MOFA's East Asian and Pacific Affairs Department received a phone call from Fan Teh-chu, deputy director of the Bureau of Entry and Exit at 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday asking about the ministry's stance on Horta's landing visa application.
"The official clearly told Fan that it was no problem for the Timorese Nobel laureate to enter Taiwan," Hu said, adding that Vice Foreign Minister David Lee reaffirmed the positive stance to Fan at 9:30 p.m. that same evening. "Our stance was consistent and unequivocal." Hu admitted that the incident had caused harm to Horta himself, the organization that invited him to visit the island, and the Republic of China government's image.
"We must learn a lesson from the incident," Hu said, adding that concerned government agencies should review all paperwork procedures, make them more transparent, and reinforce vertical coordination to avoid a recurrence of similar embarrassing and detrimental incidents.
Horta, a co-winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, was denied an entry permit by ROC immigration authorities for his now defunct "persona non grata" status, upon his arrival at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Known for his unremitting advocacy of East Timor's secession [sic.] from Indonesia, Horta was forced to spend the night at the airport's transit hotel until MOFA officials intervened to clear up the dispute four hours later.
Annoyed by his delayed admission to Taiwan, Horta terminated his visit and flew back to Australia on Thursday.
Horta, who gained further international fame for exposing Indonesian atrocities against the people of East Timor to the United Nations, said prior to his departure that he could not understand why airport officials stopped him, since he entered Taiwan without hindrance in August 1997.
In a formal apology, MOFA attributed the incident to an "administrative oversight." The blunder apparently stemmed from the failure of immigration authorities to remove Horta from the persona non grata list, said MOFA spokesman Roy Wu on Thursday.
The ROC government had previously blacklisted Horta at the request of the Indonesian government for his championing of East Timorese independence. But MOFA deleted Horta from the list last year following the political upheaval in Indonesia.
The Bureau of Entry & Exit, on the other hand, maintained that MOFA did not complete the required paperwork, and claimed that this negligence was to blame for the incident.
Before his departure, Horta said he accepted the ROC government's explanation. "I'll visit Taipei again when the opportunity presents itself," he added.
Horta, 49, who is teaching at the University of New South Wales in Australia, was invited by an Australia-based Taiwanese association to attend a Wednesday campaign rally of incumbent Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian to boost Chen's re-election bid.