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Differences over water deal ceremony in Kinmen end in compromise

2018/07/30 18:22:45

Image taken from the Facebook of Kinmen Magistrate Chen Fu-hai

Taipei, July 30 (CNA) Arguments between Taiwan's top agency in charge of China policy and the local government of outlying Kinmen County have ended after days of coordination, under which the scale of a planned ceremony to kick off water imports from China's Fujian Province to Kinmen was reduced to a mere show of county administration achievements.

Kinmen Magistrate Chen Fu-hai (陳福海) announced in a statement published Monday that the water imports will begin Aug. 5 as scheduled, underlining that "county residents' rights and interests should be the top priority."

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) asked the Kinmen County government Friday to postpone the planned dedication ceremony amid Beijing's increasing efforts to limit Taiwan's space on the international stage, especially in the wake of its July 24 push to revoke Taichung's standing as host of the first East Asian Youth Games in 2019.

The demand, however, was not accepted. Refusing to toe the line, the county government instead asked the MAC to reconsider its position.

In Monday's statement, Chen said he fully respects and understands that the MAC considers the timing of the ceremony to be "inappropriate."

However, he went on, the so-called "ceremony" is nothing more than a procedure to thank all those involved in the birth of the water deal between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Chen stressed that what he cares most about is seeing the water imports to begin Aug. 5 as planned.

According to sources familiar with the matter, after several days of efforts to coordinate the MAC and Kinmen on their differences, a decision was made Sunday that the dedication ceremony will be streamlined into a "presentation of county administration achievements" to be attended only by Kinmen residents and those who have contributed to the water project.

The ceremony was originally going to have the participation of officials from the relevant Taiwanese and Chinese government departments, but MAC officials have decided not to attend, while officials from China are not expected to be granted permits to visit by the Taiwanese authorities amid Taiwan's protest against the cancellation of the Taichung East Asian Youth Games, the sources said.

The dispute, which has caused Kinmen to be a victim of controversy over the regional games' cancellation, was finally resolved after the MAC released a statement late Sunday that there will not be a so-called "ceremony" since neither Taiwan government officials nor Chinese officials will attend.

In 2015, facing a possible water shortage due to a combination of factors, including lack of precipitation, lack of large dams and a growing number of Chinese tourists, Kinmen's water authority signed a 30-year water purchase agreement with its counterpart in Fujian to meet its demands.

The construction of a 17-kilometer water main connecting reservoirs on both sides was completed earlier this year and is expected to provide about 30 percent of the island's total water supply, according to government data.

(By Chai Sze-chia and Elizabeth Hsu)

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MAC and Kinmen at odds over water deal ceremony with China