After initially rejecting Taiwan’s request to evacuate its citizens who were trapped in Wuhan, China, Beijing sent a charter flight on February 3, 2020, to take 247 people from Wuhan to Taiwan. However, this first flight was full of controversies. [Editor’s note: A Chinascope briefing with a commentary on why the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) initially rejected the Taiwan evacuation request is worth reading, as its predictions exhibited a high similarity to what had actually happened.]
The following are the controversies.
Beijing, viewing Taiwan as part of its own territory, did not recognize the event as “Taiwan evacuating its citizens.” Instead, it just called the flight an “extra flight during the Chinese New Year.” It did not let Taiwan send a plane either, but used one from the mainland’s Eastern Airlines.
The original evacuation list had 244 people, but the actual flight carried 247. Upon arrival at Taipei, one of the three additional people, was tested and was confirmed to have been infected with the novel coronavirus,
Taiwan authorities did not receive the list of people until the people were about to board the plane, which left them little room to verify who the people were and to confirm the urgency for their return compared to that of other people. To have a better control of the situation, Taiwan authorities postponed the next flight.
When they negotiated with Beijing, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council stressed a general principle on deciding on people riding on the first fight: Give priority to those who are on a short-term visit and lack a regular facility and means to live (e.g. hotels have to provide food or other services), those who have a chronic disease, and children, elderly, and those with weak immune capabilities. It also asked to exclude those who have been confirmed to have the coronavirus infection. Beijing agreed. However, the result was quite different. Among the first 247 evacuated people, there was not only a confirmed infected patient, but also a few dozen people who did not have Taiwan citizenship (many of them were the spouses or children of Taiwan citizens). However, many people who had a higher priority based on the stated terms weren’t able get on the plane.
The Kuomintang played a big role in making the evacuation happen, since Beijing rejected the Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council’s initial request. The Kuomintang set up a seven-member group as a third-party channel to communicate with Beijing. The group talked to the Chinese Communist Party on a “party to party” basis and was able to establish the path for the evacuation.
A Kuomintang Central Committee member Xu Zhengwen collected the names of Taiwan citizens in Wuhan and worked on the first evacuation list. He criticized the Taiwan government, under the Democratic Progressive Party President, for putting people’s lives in jeopardy by postponing the next flight. However, many people blamed him for giving seats out as favors and ignoring the people who were in greater need. There were also questions about him holding many political titles from mainland China. One title, for example, was from the China Association for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification, an organization under the CCP’s United Front Department that aimed to reunify Taiwan and China.
The Kuomintang issued a news statement that its seven-people group was not involved in deciding the name list of the first flight, and that any of its party members whose words or actions interfered in the epidemic prevention would receive party discipline.
Related postings on Chinascope:
- Taiwan: Commentary – Why Beijing Does Not Allow Taiwan to Evacuate Its Citizens
- Taiwan: Beijing Rejected Taiwan’s Evacuation Request – January 28
1. Excerpt in Chinese:
Source: Deutsche Welle, February 6, 2020
2. Excerpt in Chinese:
Source: ET Today, February 5, 2020
3. Excerpt in Chinese:
Source: CM Media, February 5, 2020