Taipei, April 23 (CNA) An opposition lawmaker on Monday described President Ma Ying-jeou's recent visit to Africa as "circus diplomacy" that has done more harm than good to Taiwan's image.
Ma failed to solidify diplomatic relations on his first visit to Africa because he engaged in too many sports competitions, said Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ting-fei in the Legislature's foreign affairs and national defense committee.
It was nothing more than "circus diplomacy," Chen said, asking Foreign Minister Timothy Yang why most of the media coverage showed the president doing push-ups and jogging with African leaders.
Since Ma's return last week from his 12-day visit to three of Taiwan's allies in Africa, he has been criticized in the local media as engaging in "aerobics diplomacy" and neglecting state matters in favor of sports.
"Ma Ying-jeou looked like the head of a circus troupe," Chen said, accusing the foreign ministry of not giving top priority to diplomacy.
"No one (president) would do this," said Hsiao Bi-khim, another DPP legislator, accusing Ma of "using his body to gain coverage."
Not only did Ma embarrass Taiwan, but he also damaged its international reputation by accepting a rug made from the skin of an endangered species of leopard in Swaziland, Hsiao said.
While they acknowledged the cultural differences between Taiwan and African countries, some local animal protection groups blasted the Taiwan government for accepting gifts of animal products during Ma's trip.
In response, Yang said it is important for presidents to share common interests and that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora had been notified of the gift exchange.
"Our overseas mission had no advance knowledge of what gifts would have been presented to us," Yang said, adding that the ministry will adhere to all domestic regulations in importing the gifts of plants and animal products.
"This was a successful visit," Yang said, after presenting a 10-page report to the Legislature on the trip.
Ma and his delegation visited Burkina Faso, Swaziland and the Gambia from April 7-18.
(By Nancy Liu)