Focus Taiwan: WUHAN VIRUS/Repatriations from China must be through proper channels: premier

Taipei, Feb. 6 (CNA) Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said Thursday that there will be no more repatriations of Taiwanese nationals stranded in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, unless such arrangements are made through the established communication channels between both sides of the Taiwan Strait rather than private groups.

Su said that the Feb. 3 return of the first group of more than 200 Taiwanese was carried out without government approval or oversight and that such an incident should never happen again.

He noted that one of the 247 evacuees from the capital city of Hubei Province later tested positive for 2019-nCoV, becoming the 11th person in Taiwan to be diagnosed with the virus.

Many of those who returned to Taiwan in the group were not on a priority list the Taiwan government provided to the China side.

The government requires that priority should be given to people with chronic diseases, those who need regular medication, the elderly and children, and those who are in Wuhan on short business trips, Su said.

He also said that negotiations on possible future evacuation charter flights should be carried out through Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS).

Such negotiations should not be undertaken by private middlemen in the future, he added.

Su was referring to Hsu Cheng-wen (徐正文), a Taiwanese businessman and opposition Kuomintang Central Committee member involved in arranging the first charter flight.

Hsu, who formed a self-help group to help stranded Taiwanese, stands accused of being responsible for compiling the final list of those who returned to Taiwan Feb. 3.

Local Chinese-language Next Magazine said Wednesday that at least 20 percent of the 247 evacuees are not Republic of China nationals but the Chinese spouses of Taiwanese citizens who have permanent residency in Taiwan.

Hsu said Thursday in a Facebook post that his rescue association did not have the final say on the list of people who came back to Taiwan.

He said that he only formed the rescue group Jan. 29 after the governments on each side of the strait failed to reach a consensus on how to repatriate Taiwanese stranded in China.

Hsu said his association is also preparing a list of the remaining Taiwanese stranded in Wuhan that will be submitted to both the Taiwanese and Chinese governments in the hope that they can be brought back to Taiwan as soon as possible.

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