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Cablegate: May 14 Tao Press Briefing: Sichuan Earthquake,

VZCZCXRO3943
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #1865/01 1351030
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 141030Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7297
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 001865

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ETRD ECON CH TW
SUBJECT: MAY 14 TAO PRESS BRIEFING: SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE,
INAUGURATION, WEEKEND CHARTERS, MAINLAND TOURISM


Summary
-------

1. The May 14 Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) press briefing was
dominated by discussion of the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan:

-- The spokesman addressed the fate of 2,897 Taiwan compatriots who
were traveling in Sichuan at the time of the quake, stating that 588
were stranded in Jiuzhaigou, 13 were trapped on a suspended cableway
in Dujiangyan, and that one three-year-old boy had been killed.

-- The spokesman expressed appreciation for the messages of
condolence from (Taiwan President-elect) Ma Ying-jeou and others in
Taiwan and listed significant donations of funds and goods from
Taiwan organizations and individuals to the relief efforts. He
noted that Taiwan's two major civilian religious foundations, the
Tzu Chi Foundation and Dharma Drum Mountain, had delivered 110 tons
of food, medicine, blankets and other supplies to the affected
region.

-- The spokesman said that because of blocked roads and destroyed
communications, it is difficult to allow relief workers from Taiwan
into the disaster area. Taiwan-based groups would be contacted once
conditions are suitable.

-- Turning to Ma Ying-jeou's May 20 inauguration, the spokesman said
that improving ties is the hope of both sides of the Strait and that
joint efforts should made to open a new phase of cross-Strait peace
and development.

-- Asked for an update on weekend charter flights and Mainland
tourism to Taiwan, the spokesman merely said that the timing of
implementation would depend on joint efforts by both sides. End
Summary

Taiwan Compatriots in the Earthquake Area
------------------------------------

2. At the May 14 regular Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) press briefing,
TAO spokesman Yang Yi said that more than 100 travel groups from
Taiwan, consisting of 2,897 individuals, were in Sichuan when the
earthquake struck. Of those, 588 are stranded in the Jiuzhaigou
tourist area because of blocked roads and 13 are trapped on the
Lingyunyan Cableway in Dujiangyan. One three-year old boy from
Taiwan was killed in the quake and two persons suffered minor
injuries. The TAO is trying to verify the condition of a
four-year-old girl. Twenty-eight Taiwan compatriots who were
trapped in the Friendship Tunnel between Dujiangyan and Wenchuan
were rescued and safely made it to Chengdu. Asked about reports of
an additional 80 Taiwan persons missing, Yang admitted that these
were preliminary figures and that as soon as additional information
is available it will be provided to the media. He said that every
effort was being made to rescue the stranded people. Yang did not
know if contact had been made with the travelers in Jiuzhaigou but
said he would provide the information as soon as possible. He
provided a hotline number for concerned people to call for updates
on the circumstances of Taiwan people caught in the quake.

Taiwan Concern, Assistance to the Quake Victims
--------------------------------------------- --

3. Yang noted that the KMT Central Committee, Straits Exchange
Foundation (SEF), (President-elect) Ma Ying-jeou, Honorary KMT
Chairman Lien Chan, People First Party Chairman James Soong and New
Party Chairman Yu Mu-ming all had sent letters expressing concern
and condolences regarding the earthquake. The SEF provided USD
300,000 and offered to send professional search and rescue teams.
The spokesman also noted that Taiwan's two major civilian religious
foundations, the Tzu Chi Foundation and Dharma Drum Mountain, had
chartered cargo flights and delivered 110 tons of food, medicine,
blankets and other supplies to the affected region. (Note: The
Taiwan media has commented that China's acceptance of this aid
resulted from a personal appeal from Lien Chan to Hu Jintao, and
that this is the first time the religious organizations have been
allowed to provide disaster relief on the Mainland.)

4. Yang said private and corporate donations of cash and goods from
Taiwan totaled nearly USD 37 million and that the Taiwan Industry
Association has collected from its members nearly USD 1 million for
disaster relief. For those Taiwan compatriots wishing to donate,
the spokesman urged them to channel their donations through the
Taiwan Red Cross to the Red Cross of China or directly to the China
Charity Federation. Yang expressed heartfelt thanks for all the
assistance rendered and said it demonstrated the Chinese virtue of
helping the distressed and assisting those in peril. This
outpouring of "love and brotherhood" from Taiwan will help those
affected by the earthquake return to productive lives and rebuild
their homes.

5. The spokesman acknowledged the many offers from Taiwan of
disaster relief teams and specialized search and rescue units to
travel to the disaster areas. He said that because of the

BEIJING 00001865 002 OF 002


seriousness of the disaster, many roads are blocked and
communication disrupted. Therefore, it is difficult to access the
area and difficult to allow Taiwan rescue workers to get to the
areas to assist with rescue operations. As soon as circumstances
permit, Taiwan-based groups would be contacted, he said.

Ma's Inauguration, Charter Flights, Mainland Tourists
--------------------------------------------- --------

6. Asked about expectations for (President-elect) Ma Ying-jeou's
leadership on cross-Strait issues in light of his impending
inauguration on May 20, the TAO spokesman said the Mainland has
noticed that since Ma's election on March 22, Ma has many times
expressed his desire to put into practice the commitments he made
during the campaign regarding cross-Strait relations. The peaceful
development of cross-Strait relations is the common hope and
interest of both sides. As Taiwan undergoes a positive change to a
new circumstance, China hopes that both sides will make efforts to
build mutual trust, set aside disputes, reserve differences and seek
common ground, and together create win-win solutions to open a new
phase of cross-Strait peace and development. (Note: This
formulation refers to President Hu Jintao's 16-character phrase that
purportedly encapsulates his goals for cross-Strait relations.).
Asked about progress on weekend charter flights and Mainland tourism
to Taiwan, Yang said implementing those measures is the expectation
of compatriots on both sides of the Strait. China has made active
efforts in this regard and the timing of implementation will depend
on joint efforts by both sides.

Other Issues
------------

7. In response to a question, the spokesman noted that Tuantuan and
Yuanyuan, pandas at the Wolong Panda Reserve in Sichuan that have
been designated for Taiwan, are safe. China has approved two Taiwan
shipping companies to participate in recently re-opened export of
sand to Taiwan. China hopes for fruitful results in joint
development of energy resources, including oil and gas exploration,
in the Taiwan Strait.

RANDT

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