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May 29, 2017

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Ex-foreign minister tapped to head SEF

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Former Foreign Minister Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂) will head the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), a presidential spokesman said Wednesday, ending months of speculation over the leadership of the semi-official body in charge of handling ties with Beijing.

Tien's leadership at the SEF is expected to help Taiwanese businesses expand and solve problems in China and to maintain interactions and exchanges across the strait, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang said.

The top SEF post has been left vacant since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in May. Tien faces a tough task amid worsening ties across the strait and Beijing pressure for Tsai to openly embrace the so-called "1992 Consensus."

Tien last year predicted at a forum in London that Tsai would not accept the "1992 Consensus," which he said would remain key to cross-strait development, according to the China Times newspaper.

He said at the time that Taipei-Beijing dialogue could be terminated if Tsai continued to reject the "1992 Consensus," the newspaper said.

It remains to be seen whether Tien could improve cross-strait ties or whether there will be any change to Tsai's stance.

Tien, who headed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from May 2000 to February 2002 when Chen Shui-bian was president, is currently head of the Institute for National Policy Research (INPR), a private foundation set up by Evergreen Group founder Chang Yung-fa.

He has been a national policy adviser to the Presidential Office and Taipei's representative in Britain.

Huang said Tien had profound knowledge of Chinese affairs, which have been a major area of his studies over the years. Tien's doctoral dissertation is on China's political development.

Tien had a deep understanding of cross-strait affairs and Asia-Pacific issues, and has contributed significantly to promoting Taiwan's democratization and international participation, according to Huang.

He added that Tien had built INPR into a major international think tank with close interactions with universities and other research bodies from China, the U.S., Japan and Europe.

Tien is also an adviser for Taiwan's Chinese National Federation of Industries, helping businesses by offering them analyses and suggestions concerning cross-strait and regional situations, Huang said.

Tien's appointment will fill one of the last remaining pieces in Tsai's government lineup.

The Presidential Office is also expected to announce today the nominations of seven candidates for the Council of Grand Justices.

One of the candidates, Hsu Tzong-li, is expected to become head of the Judicial Yuan, and another, Tsai Chung-tun, to be his deputy.

Hsu, now a law professor at National Taiwan University, was a grand justice from 2003 to 2011, and critics have argued that his return to the council would be unconstitutional.

The would-be Judicial Yuan deputy head is currently a Supreme Court justice.

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