Former NPM Director's Employment in China Sparks Anger in Taiwan

Former NPM Director's Employment in China Sparks Anger in Taiwan
Photo Credit:CORBIS/達志影像

What you need to know

Feng Ming-chu has come under heavy criticism by people who argue that her work in Beijing could threaten Taiwan's national security.

Former National Palace Museum director Feng Ming-chu (馮明珠) has been hired as an unpaid consultant by the Beijing National Palace Museum, a revelation that has raised "national security" fears in Taiwan.

According to the “Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area,” officials who have retired or have been discharged from work at designated agencies related to national security must wait a period of three years before they can travel to China or obtain a “special approval” to do so.

As a former civil servant, Feng must therefore abide by the three-year restriction on entering China.

The application for entering China before the three-year restriction expires must be reviewed and approved by a committee under the Executive Yuan, and is a time-consuming process.

However, former officials can request to their former employers that the waiting period be shortened based on an article of the law that reads:

“The period during which any retired or discharged person is required to apply for approval to the reviewing committee for its entering into the Mainland Area after its retirement or discharge may be extended or shortened by the agencies it has served, the entrusting agencies, or the entrusted organizations or institutions in accordance with the nature of national secrecy and the business involved.”

“Where any unforeseen significant event affects the material interests of the Taiwan Area or causes any serious damage to the cross-straits interaction, the Executive Yuan may, after giving a public notice, apply any prohibitive, restrictive, or other necessary measure for a certain period of time to the entrance of the people of the Taiwan Area into the Mainland Area with a resolution of the Legislative Yuan.”

According to government officials, in May, when she was still director of the National Palace Museum, Feng asked the Executive Yuan that her restriction period be shortened to one year. Her proposal was approved the following month. She then requested that this be further shortened to three months, although this time she contacted the personnel office at the National Palace Museum rather than higher authorities.

Feng is currently in China.

Feng has come under severe criticism for her actions, which have raised national security concerns. Some critics and experts believe that historical relics and confidential documents preserved by the National Palace Museum should be treated as “national secrets.”

In her defense, Feng has argued that her request for shortening her travel restriction time to one year was approved by the government, adding that during a meeting with Executive Yuan officials she was informed that cultural institutions are not included in the three-year regulation as there are no national secrets involved.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators argue that the current regulations are too loose, and proposed in March that stricter restrictions be implemented, a move that was sparked when former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) made plans to visit Hong Kong shortly after he left office. His request was eventually turned down by the government.

Other former officials who have proposed to have the three-year restriction period shortened include former Minister of Education Wu Se-hua (吳思華), former Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), and 56 governmental officials, DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) has revealed. Lee has also accused these officials of “taking advantage of a legal loophole to circumvent the ban.”

San Gee (單驥), former deputy minister at the Council for Economic Planning And Development under the Executive Yuan, was fined NT$134,000 (US$4,200) in June for visiting China within three years after his resignation.

Taiwanese people are currently banned from serving as civil servants in political institutions in China, a regulation that excludes contract employees.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole