Wednesday, May 12, 1999

Bombing of
China embassy
delays official
visit from isles

The governor and representatives
from the visitor industry postpone
a scheduled tourism promotion trip

By Susan Kreifels


The governor and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau have postponed their tourism promotion trip to China because of the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia.

A Chinese delegation visiting Hawaii for a humanitarian and disaster relief conference has also postponed its visit at the end of the month, a spokesman for Commander in Chief of Pacific forces said.

And Marvin Chang, president of Dragon Hawaii Tours, believes his hope for more Chinese tourists here has definitely suffered a setback.

"The government will discourage any official travel to the United States," Chang said yesterday. And that represents at least 85 percent of all Chinese who visit the United States, he said. "This is going to be affecting Chinese tours to the United States big time."

The fallout of the political fiasco raised by the accidental bombing has reached Hawaii.

Gov. Ben Cayetano's spokeswoman, Kathleen Racuya-Markrich, said the governor and HVCB have postponed their visit to Beijing and Shanghai that was scheduled for May 20-26. Hoping to sell Hawaii as a tourist destination for the world's most populous country, the delegation included Honolulu chef Russell W.J. Siu of 3660 On The Rise restaurant, Miss Honolulu 1999 Tricia Fujikawa, and a troupe of hula dancers and musicians to entice Chinese with aloha.

China called off military cooperation with the United States since the bombing incident, which sparked protests and brick-throwing around the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for the past four days.

Lt. Col. Kevin Krejcarek, CINCPAC spokesman, said a Chinese delegation looking at disaster relief has postponed its visit. "Needless to say, we want to get past this tragic incident in Belgrade and normalize our military-to-military relationship," Krejcarek said.

Journalists in the East-West Center's Jefferson Fellowship, now in Japan, still intend to visit China, said the center's spokeswoman, Karen Knudsen. But they are watching the situation closely and staying in touch with their Chinese sponsors, she said.

Government officials here said the State Department has issued a travel advisory on China.

Others here don't think the political uproar will hurt tourism or China-connected business.

Ted Sturdivant with Network Media, active in promoting Chinese tourism here, is not as concerned as Chang. Sturdivant called the bombing a "temporary setback. The strong business ties we have with China will remain.

"We all need to take a step back and analyze what's going on and move forward," Sturdivant said.

Russell Leu, a private attorney who is director of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce here, agreed with Sturdivant that the impact of the bombing on U.S.-China business would not be major.

Leu, who said he was speaking as a private businessman, believes business is proceeding as usual and is not aware of any problems faced by Hawaii companies -- yet. "It might be premature," Leu said. "We'll see what happens."

Sturdivant and Chang agreed that postponing the tourism promotion trip was a wise decision. But Chang thinks the White House should do more to appease China's anger than just issuing an apology.

"If our embassy was attacked in the same situation, would the public in the USA be satisfied with just an apology?" Chang asked.

Leu, also a board member of the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association, sees the solution as a people one. "People need to communicate," Leu said.

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