Personal Log: The promotion of Taiwan in Northern Ireland
Written by Alderman William Humphrey MLA.,
Secretary General, WLFD UK Chapter
After my first visit to Taiwan in 2011, I decided to raise the profile of Taiwan in Northern Ireland. I organised a visit to Northern Ireland of Ms Siao-Yue Chang the then Taipei Representative in the United Kingdom and Chih-Chen Yi, Deputy Director. This included a visit to tourist sights, a St. Patricks Night Concert, meetings with politicians, business men and educationalists. As Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast I was honoured to host lunch for our esteemed visitor.
My next decision was to begin the procedure of linking Belfast and Taipei. A letter was received from the Mayor of Taipei, Mr Lung-Bin Hau requesting a relationship between the two cities. I engaged Sonia Chen to produce a power point illustrating the advantages of Belfast becoming a sister city to Taipei. This power point is ready, if needed, to be delivered to all political parties in Belfast City Council. I hope to have a decision on this in the summer of 2013.
A prestigious sports dinner was held in Belfast City Council at the beginning of 2012, at which I suggested that the organiser should include a Taiwanese Table. This was a great success with many people asking about Taiwan.
I have been please to make my staff and office available to the overseas Taiwanese community. I was delighted to attend a Chinese New Year dinner, along with UK, WLDF President, Lord Rogan, as a guest of the Taiwanese Student Society based in the Queen’s University of Belfast. I have attended the AGM of this student society where I promised my help, if they require it, to promote Taiwan.
My party colleagues initiated the formation of an umbrella group, Taiwan N.I., to represent the views and aspiration of overseas Taiwanese and friends of Taiwan and assisted with the drafting of a constitution, child protection policy and equality policy; all of which are required for the formation of any community group within Northern Ireland. The following personnel have been in charge of Taiwan N.I. since November 2012: Chair person, Sonia Chen (President of Taiwanese Society in UUJ); Secretary, Jack Chang (President of Taiwanese Society in QUB); Treasurer, Michael Wang. I have personally been involved in the final drafts to establish Taiwan N.I.
As Alderman and Party Leader in the City Hall, I am in a position to facilitate applications for funding to promote Taiwan N.I. (to this end funding, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, has already been applied for). My office was successful in seeing through Good Relations Department, the use of the Committee Room in the Belfast city Hall to host a celebration of Taiwan National Day (Double Tenth Day) 2012. This was a very successful occasion with the High Sheriff and Councillors present. I was delighted to be the main speaker at this event. My thanks go to my party colleagues, Sonia Chen and Vanessa Chao who organised the party.
As a MLA, (Member of the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland) I have informed Taiwan N.I. that I am in a position to introduce them to Ministers or other MLAs within the N.I. Assembly, if the association wishes, in order to promote Taiwan. This is essential because of increasing influence of the Confucius Institute. Through it, the Chinese Government has been willing to spend not only time, but money to promote Mainland China, even in this small part of the UK. Whilst Northern Ireland is a small part of the United Kingdom, Beijing’s recognition of our importance and position within the UK was illustrated in 2012 when one of the highest ranking female Chinese politicians’ Liu Yandong visited Northern Ireland, first, before going on to her London visit.
I think that the Taiwanese Government should seek to promote their culture, their way of life and business opportunities. This can be done by initiating a student exchange programme; although education is a very important element in the promotion of Taiwan, trade links and tourism must not be overlooked. I am willing to use my influence to facilitate and arrange educational exchanges or business links. The Taiwanese Government could provide sponsorships for N.I. student exchanges and sponsorships for businessmen from Northern Ireland. To this end, I would suggest small groups of businessmen should visit in both Northern Ireland and Taiwan. Again, I must emphasise government sponsorship of these visits is essential as the Beijing government has already received a Trade Delegation, led by senior politicians from my own and other parties in late 2012. I believe another visit has been arranged in early 2013. This has resulted in substantial exports in Northern Ireland. (£400,000)
Finally, I along with Lord Denis Rogan, plan to arrange a visit of the new Taipei Representative, Dr. Shen Lyushun, in early 2013. The visit will include meeting businessmen, politicians and overseas Taiwanese.