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Taiwanese diplomat flies to Hokkaido after criticism

2018/09/07 21:13:26

Taiwan's Representative to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) / CNA file photo

Tokyo, Sept. 7 (CNA) Taiwan's Representative to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) flew Friday from Tokyo to Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's main islands, which was struck by a magnitude-6.7 earthquake a day earlier.

Because of the quake, which local reports said has caused the death of 16 people and left 26 unaccounted for, many Taiwanese travelers, including 712 tourists in 23 tour groups, were forced to delay their return home, according to data from Taiwan's Tourism Bureau.

New Chitose Airport, Hokkaido's main gateway, was not reopened until Friday morning after being closed in the wake of the deadly temblor.

Prior to his departure, Hsieh told CNA that Hokkaido could still be prone to aftershocks and rain that he said could trigger further landslides like those that occurred when the earthquake struck, burying many homes at the foot of mountains.

Hsieh said he had dispatched two Tokyo-based officials to Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, earlier in the day to help the Sapporo branch of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan with providing services to stranded Taiwanese travelers, expatriates and students there.

He said he needed to be in Sapporo to extend his regards to the officials at the Sapporo office who have been working round the clock since the quake to serve Taiwanese compatriots.

Hsieh also conveyed messages from President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) that Taiwan is ready to offer aid to Japan at any time.

Earlier, the diplomat was accused on social media of being slack in his work after staff of Taiwan's representative office in Japan were accused in a PTT post of being reluctant to offer assistance to Taiwanese in Osaka who asked for help after massive flooding caused by Typhoon Jebi led to the closure of Kansai International Airport Tuesday.

PTT is one of the most popular bulletin boards in Taiwan.

The post sparked criticism by netizens who blamed Hsieh for not doing his job, instead spending his time sparring with his political enemies.

Meanwhile, several opposition Kuomintang lawmakers denounced him at a press conference in Taipei Friday for giving the cold shoulder to Taiwanese people seeking assistance.

In response, Chang Shu-ling (張淑玲), a counselor at the Department of East Asia and Pacific Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), said the offices in Japan have been ordered to conduct self-reflection and improve their services in the wake of the public criticism.

The number of people in need of emergency aid at the Kansai airport was so large that representative office staff were unable to give everyone proper assistance, explained Chang, who also serves as secretary-general of the Taipei-based Taiwan-Japan Relations Association.

Currently, there are no Taiwanese people still stranded at Kansai, she said, while in Hokkaido, the Sapporo office has activated an emergency response mechanism offering round-the-clock services, including providing food and booking hotel accommodation and flights for those in need.

(By Yang Ming-chu, Wang Cheng-chung and Elizabeth Hsu)