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May 25, 2017

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Chen hails easing public restrictions during U.S. visit

President Chen Shui-bian expressed Sunday satisfaction with the easing of restrictions by U.S. government on his public activities during the stop-over visit to New York.

During his two-day stay in New York before moving on to Panama, Chen has met New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, accepted an award from the International League of Human Rights, and delivered several public speeches.

He also presented a national flag of the Republic of China and a posthumous citation honoring the late ROC first lady Madame Chiang Kai-shek to her bereaved family.

The president also attended a dinner co-hosted by Chen's overseas supporters, the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council and United Defense, a major U.S.-based defense equipment supplier.

On previous transit visits to the United States as the ROC president, Chen was allowed only to meet with a small group of Taiwanese expatriates. He was barred from making public speeches as Washington was concerned with possible backlash from Beijing.

Chen took a cruise on the Hudson and East rivers aboard the "Spirit of New York" tourist boat along with more than 500 Taiwanese community representatives Saturday evening.

He said that the ever-improving treatment he has received during his transit stops shows that Taiwan-U.S. relations are improving.

Chen said he wanted once again to express his heartfelt gratitude for the U.S. government's granting him a visa to receive the human rights award in person. "The United States is Taiwan's true friend," he added. Some officials accompanying Chen on the visit said they were moved to tears.

Therese Shaheen, managing director of the Washington-based American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) — which maintains close contact with Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic relations — indicated support for looser restrictions.

"There was a secret guardian angel here. That's really responsible for tonight. And that is President George W. Bush," Shaheen said.

After visiting the World Trade Center (WTC) Ground Zero Saturday to pay tribute to people who perished in the terrorist attacks in New York Sept. 11, 2001, Chen said, "Although the twin towers are no long there, their spirit will exist forever,"

Earlier in the day, Chen met at Waldorf Astoria hotel with Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA) over a breakfast for a wide-ranging talk.

The president later met with former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Chen offered his appreciation to Giuliani for his extraordinary performances during the stint as Big Apple's mayor in municipal administrative management as well as in crucial reconstruction and rehabilitation work immediately after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Chen extended his personal invitation to Giuliani to visit Taiwan, citing the fact that he has met with Giuliani twice in the past.

Giuliani accepted Chen's invitation. He also restated his appreciation toward President Chen and Taiwan for their support for the U.S. led anti-terrorism drives.

Later in the day, Chen met with Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV) and other U.S. congressional members at his hotel room for talks.

Chen and his entourage of 100 people left Sunday from New York to Panama, where he will attend celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Panama's independence. Panama is one of 26 countries which recognize Taipei rather than Beijing.

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