Former president questions reason for extending travel restriction

05/19/2019 10:34 PM
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Former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九, right) and former Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義)
Former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九, right) and former Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義)

Taipei, May 19 (CNA) Former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) questioned Sunday the reason why an extension of a travel restriction was placed on him, describing it as a way for the Presidential Office to humiliate him through administrative sanctions.

Both Ma and Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Ma's deputy in between 2012 and 2016 while he served as president from 2008 to 2016, received official notification from the Presidential Office Friday that the existing three-year travel restriction on them has been extended for another two years.

The new measure was taken based on the newly-revised Classified National Security Information Protection Act, which allows agencies that handle confidential information to add up to three years to an existing three-year travel restriction on former officials entrusted with state secrets.

As a result, the current travel restriction on Ma and Wu, which is due to end May 20, will not expire until May 20, 2021.

At a press conference that was also attended by Wu, Ma said that in the three years since he left office, he has always abided by the act, arguing that the notice from the Presidential Office gave no reason for the extension.

"What type of era is this kind of logic from? Why is it two years, not one year or three years? What is the basis of the extension and why wasn't I informed earlier?" Ma asked.

The extension is unjustified, and in the absence of any leakage of secrets, the extension is just humiliation through administrative procedure, he said.

Ma said he and Wu will file a complaint with the Presidential Office in a bid to seek the notice to be retracted.

Slamming President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Ma said she often cites the Republic of China's (Taiwan's) democracy as something to be proud of and often uses it to make comparisons with China, but he questioned which democratic country would extend a travel restriction on a former head of state for no reason.

Tsai, however, pointed out that when she steps down as president, she will also be subject to the same travel restriction, and denied setting anybody up.

In response, Ma said the problem does not lie with the restriction itself but with the circumstances of why the period of the travel restriction for him and Wu was extended.

As for Wu, who is now the chairman of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and was slated to depart for China June 19 to attend a forum between the KMT and the Communist Party of China, his trip is now in question.

To that end, both Ma and Wu have demanded that the Presidential Office retract the notice.

Under the Classified National Security Information Protection Act, government officials who have handled classified information must seek government permission to travel overseas after they retire, resign, or transfer to another position.

On May 7, the Legislative Yuan passed an amendment to the law, allowing the period to be extended for up to six years.

Prior to the amendment, the law applied for a period of three years after the official left office, but that time could be shortened or lengthened, depending on circumstances.

The passage of the amendment was criticized by the KMT as deliberately targeting Ma and Wu in the run-up to the presidential election in January 2020.

(By Yu Hsiang and William Yen)


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