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SEF rejects CITES' interpretation of 'domestic transfer' of pandas
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
Page 2
2008-12-24 11:37 AM
Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation yesterday rejected reports that the transportation of two pandas from China to Taipei was a domestic Chinese affair.

The secretariat of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, said it didn't need to be informed of the pandas' move because it was a domestic transaction.

The SEF, the semi-official body in charge of talks with China, rejected the organization's interpretation, saying that the transfer was being handled under rules agreed to by the previous Democratic Progressive Party administration.

The pandas' trip had nothing to do with CITES, SEF secretary general Kao Koong-lian told the media. He said Taiwan imported traditional Chinese medicinal products under the same agreement during the DPP's time in power, which ended last May.

The DPP has criticized the government for allowing China to treat the transfer as a domestic affair, belittling Taiwan and damaging its sovereignty in the process.

The fact that the origin of the flight carrying the pandas was listed as "Chengdu, Sichuan" and the destination as "Taipei, Taiwan" showed China wasn't treating the transfer as an international matter, DPP lawmakers said.

CITES said that even in the case of international exchanges of endangered animals, the only requirement was that both parties delivered a report by the end of the year during which the transaction took place, but in the case of the Chinese pandas for Taiwan, even that wasn't necessary.

The arrival of the pandas was the first step toward the unification of Taiwan and China, said Lo Chih-cheng, secretary general of the pro-independence Taiwan Society, commenting on the CITES view that the pandas' trip was a domestic transaction.

Lo said the animals' exchange could be compared to the recent introduction of direct cross-straits flights, which were also not considered international flights because no foreign airlines were allowed to ply the routes.

In both instances, Taiwan failed to stand up for its rights, allowing a creeping de facto unification to advance, the academic said.

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