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8 Taiwan local government leaders visit Beijing (update 2)

2016/09/18 23:35:51

Lienchiang County Magistrate Liu (left) shakes hands with China's Yu Zhengsheng.

Beijing, Sept. 18 (CNA) Eight city and county government leaders of Taiwan held a "breakthrough" meeting with Beijing officials Sunday, urging China to seek ways to "reset and restart" cross-strait ties.

Hsu Yao-chang (徐耀昌), magistrate of Miaoli County, said his delegation was calling for both sides of the Taiwan Strait to choose a "broad avenue" on which economic, tourism, cultural and agricultural cooperation between Taiwan and China can be continued as they need to face international competition in these areas.

He said if cross-strait ties continued to be deadlocked, it will hurt both the government and the people. "Our visit to Beijing is a breakthrough since the new government was launched in May," he added.

Hsu, of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), made his appeal to Zhang Zhijun, China's Taiwan Affairs minister, who reiterated that the "one China" principle embodied in its "1992 consensus" with Taiwan is the political foundation on which cross-strait exchanges will be conducted.

Because the Democratic Progressive Party's Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who was sworn in as president on May 20, refused to acknowledge the existence of such a consensus, China has cut off all official channels of communications with Taiwan.

The new situation since May 20 has created "grave influences and impacts on" every aspect of cross-strait exchanges, making certain cities and counties in Taiwan "feel uneasy," Zhang said, explaining the background of the current visit by eight predominantly Kuomintang politicians.

All but two of the eight visiting leaders are from Kuomintang-led cities or counties, including Hsinchu County's Chiu Ching-chun (邱鏡淳), Nantou County's Lin Ming-chen (林明溱), Lienchiang County's Liu Tseng-ying (劉增應), New Taipei's Deputy Mayor Yeh Hui-ching (葉惠青) and Taitung's Deputy Magistrate Chen Chin-hu (陳金虎). The other two, Hualien County's Fu Kun-chi (傅崐萁) and Kinmen County's Deputy Magistrate Wu Cheng-tien (吳成典), are independents.

These eight local government leaders have one thing in common, Zhang said. "They all acknowledge the '1992 consensus' and support the peaceful development of cross-Taiwan Strait ties and they hope the hard-earned fruit of cross-strait development will be cherished rather than damaged."

Hsu proposed that Chinese cities and counties identify their counterparts in Taiwan to engage in city-to-city or region-to-region cooperation by stabilizing trade and investment exchanges that can be expanded to tourism and other areas.

For instance, Hsu said, both sides can design in-depth tour packages for each other. Both sides can work together to promote quality farm produce and specialty foods in each other's market, to create a win-win situation for people working in these lines of work, he added.

Because the Taiwan delegates were putting forth concrete proposals to "put cross-strait exchanges back on track," Chinese officials in charge of tourism, commerce, marketing and even quarantine were on hand to listen and respond to the Taiwanese leaders' concerns.

According to Zhang, the Taiwanese local government leaders did make "some proposals and requests" including suggestions for pushing ahead certain cooperation and exchange projects.

"At the meeting, we replied to their requests based on broad principles. The Taiwan Affairs Office and other government agencies will undertake a serious study of their proposals before coming back to them with concrete answers," he said.

Zhang said as long as the political foundation of the "1992 consensus" remains solid, cross-strait exchanges can still be pushed forward.

China's response to the eight pan-blue camp local government heads and deputy heads was quick and positive. By late Sunday, after their meeting with Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the Chinese government announced it was ready to expand cooperation with these eight administrative areas of Taiwan.

In an 8-point statement, Beijing said it welcomes these eight cities and counties to organize activities in China to promote their farm produce and specialty foods; it also would like to see them form a "tourism promotion alliance" to attract Chinese to visit their cities and counties.

Chinese government agencies and cities will also cooperate with these Taiwanese cities and counties in the areas of green energy, high-tech industry and smart city, while encouraging Chinese public and private sectors to work with their Taiwanese counterparts in the eight cities and counties to develop creative industries.

Back home in Taipei, DPP politicians were not happy about the KMT government leaders' "defection" to China.

Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡), DPP legislative caucus whip, said the "1992 consensus" has been rejected by Taiwan's mainstream public opinion as shown in the latest election results.

In January, Taiwan's voters handed the KMT a double whammy by giving the DPP's presidential candidate Tsai and Legislature candidates landslide victories, ushering in an era of DPP in control of both the executive and legislative branches of government.

But that does not mean the Taiwanese public completely rejects the "1992 consensus," in which both sides of the Taiwan Straits agreed that there is only one China on earth, but each side can interpret its meaning in its own way. For Taiwan, that "one China" is the Republic of China.

"The '1992 consensus' is not a part of mainstream public opinion in Taiwan. It is not good that KMT city and county leaders have visited China in a gesture of defection," Wu said.

Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲), a DPP lawmaker, said making an effort to attract Chinese tourists to Taiwan is a good thing. "And yet, if the number of Chinese tourists coming to Taiwan has declined, it has been caused by political factors rather than by what Chinese officials claim is a lack of friendship from the Taiwanese people or poor safety regulations that had caused a tragic tour bus fire that killed all passengers inside," Huang said

Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟), KMT legislative caucus whip, said these local government heads had the people's future in their minds during their visit to China.

"The DPP government should think of ways to break through the current impasse, finding words that would convince China to work with it to bring cross-strait exchanges back on track," Liao added.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) was alarmed by the Chinese government's rapid response to the eight local governments' requests, saying that only through normal cross-strait exchanges and interactions can bilateral ties be expected to develop in a "benevolent cycle."

The MAC advised China to "think cautiously," reiterating its call for China not to attach political strings to engaging in trade, investment, tourism, academic and city-to-city exchanges with Taiwan.

The MAC hinted that China has made "inappropriate intervention" in Taiwan affairs by doling out incentive packages separately to the opposition-led cities and counties.

(By Lawrence Chiu, Liu Kuan-ting, and S.C. Chang)
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Taipei, Sept. 18 (CNA)