Two Taiwan officials were forced to leave a meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations' Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in Italy in July, allegedly due to pressure from China, a Taiwan official confirmed Wednesday.
Chen Tain-shou (???), head of Taiwan's Fisheries Agency, said that when the two representatives from his agency presented their passports at the venue, one entered the venue but the other was stopped.
The first official was later asked to leave the meeting and although both of them sought assistance, they "had difficulty" participating, Chen said during a legislative hearing Wednesday.
He said the two Taiwan officials had registered to attend the meeting, not as government representatives, but as members of non-governmental organizations -- the Taiwan Fisheries Association and the Overseas Fisheries Development Council of the Republic of China.
It was the first time such an incident had occurred at a COFI meeting since 2003, when Taiwanese officials began participating as NGO members or experts, Chen said, confirming local media reports on the matter.
In July, the COFI's 32nd session was held in Rome to discuss global fisheries policies, initiatives and partnerships, as well as such issues as food security and nutrition, biodiversity conservation, marine litter and micro-plastics, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Asked by another lawmaker whether Taiwan's Fisheries Agency had assessed the possibility of future participation in the biennial meeting, Chen said he will do his best, although "things have tightened up relatively at present."
Meanwhile, in response to reporters' questions on the issue, Agriculture Minister Tsao Chi-hung (???) implied that China was to blame.
In the 21st century, countries should recognize that this is a new era in which the Earth's ecological environment is interdependent on all of its inhabitants, he said.
"We urge China to recognize this," Tsao said. "China seems to have always placed politics first and foremost, but that's a thing of the 20th century."
He also said he disproved of the way China and the organizers handled the matter in July.
The FAO should encourage countries and NGOs to participate in its meetings, where they can share information about marine protection and resources, Tsao said.
The COFI is a subsidiary body of the FAO Council and a global inter-governmental forum that examines major international fisheries and aquaculture problems.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel