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MOFA denies asking names of overseas pact protester

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's overseas representative offices did not ask for the names for students who participated in protests against the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement in Europe, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

MOFA spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) told The China Post yesterday that the ministry has always maintained political neutrality, stressing that the allegation that Taiwan's overseas offices have been collecting names of students who joined the protests held in several European countries is “nothing but rumor.”

According to a Chinese-language Apple Daily report yesterday, a netizen who claims to be a Taiwanese student studying in the Netherlands made a post on late Thursday on Taiwan's largest bulletin board system, PTT.

The unnamed netizen said he or she has overheard officials at Taiwan's office in the Netherlands calling friends to ask for a list of Taiwanese students who recently joined a protest in Amsterdam.

More than 200 Taiwanese, dressed in black shirts and holding sunflowers, joined a rally on March 30 at the Museumplein, Amsterdam, to show their support for the protesters in Taipei.

The netizen added that similar move had reportedly been made by Taiwanese officials at London as well, raising accusations that the Taiwan government has seen these protesters as enemies.

Thousand of protesters, most of them students, have occupied the Legislative Yuan's main chamber since March 18, demanding that the ruling administration scrap a controversial cross-strait service trade agreement, which they suspect will bring more harm than good to Taiwanese.

Asked to comment, Kao yesterday refuted the accusation, saying that Taipei's offices in London and in Amsterdam had not done so as claimed by the netizen.

The spokeswoman reiterated MOFA's longtime stance in maintaining political neutrality in carrying out official duties, adding that the main focus for Taiwan's overseas office is to help boost closer ties between Taiwan and local governments and to offer assistance to overseas Taiwanese in need.

MOFA's Department of European Affairs Director-General Zhang Ming-zong (張銘忠) previously said the ministry respects students' right to voice their opinions on the issue via peaceful demonstrations.

However, as representatives of the R.O.C. Government, prior to the holding of such events to support the protest in Taiwan, several of Taipei's offices in Europe have talked to the students who were planning to take part, explaining to them the government's stance regarding the pact with the aim of clearing doubts over the agreement.

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