Cross-strait harmony better than hostility: Taipei mayor

07/22/2020 08:46 PM
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Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je. CNA photo July 22, 2020
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je. CNA photo July 22, 2020

Taipei, July 22 (CNA) Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Wednesday defended his "pragmatic" approach to relations with China, saying that "family harmony is better than family hostility" during an annual forum between the cities of Taipei and Shanghai.

The 11th Taipei-Shanghai Twin City forum was scaled back from three days to one this year and held via videoconferencing for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his opening remarks to the conference, Ko said he has tried to adopt a "pragmatic" approach to relations across the Taiwan Strait during his tenure as mayor, taking into account the two sides' historical and cultural connections and close economic ties.

"Even today I still believe that having cross-strait exchanges is better than not, that cooperation is better than confrontation, and that family harmony is better than family hostility," Ko said, in a reference to China's frequent characterization of the two sides as "one family."

Ko proposed "five mutual principles" to guide the relationship, saying the two sides need to meet, understand, respect, cooperate and have forbearance with each other.

He also criticized Taiwan's government for what he called a "contradictory strategy" of instigating anti-China sentiment, even as the two sides continue to enjoy close commercial relations.

Ko sharpened his criticisms in remarks to reporters after the speech. "I don't really approve of using ideology to sow conflict in the cross-strait relationship," he said, adding that some in Taiwan are using the tense relations with China "for personal, partisan or electoral benefit."

Ko, the founder of the centrist Taiwan People's Party (TPP), has tried to stake out a middle ground on China between the skepticism of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the more sympathetic stance of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT).

In this vein, Ko's speech on Wednesday emphasized the importance of "building goodwill" between the two cities' people, while avoiding larger political issues, such as Taiwan's participation in international organizations or China's recent imposition of repressive national security laws in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Shanghai Mayor Gong Zheng (龔正) praised Taipei's success in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said had minimized the social and economic impact on the city.

Gong also reaffirmed the concept that "the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family," adding that while the pandemic has made it impossible to meet in person, it is important for both sides to continue interacting.

In holding the forum, "Shanghai and Taipei have already established a model for cross-strait exchanges between cities," Gong said.

(By Liang Pei-chi, Li Wan-yu and Matthew Mazzetta)

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