China's top official to Straits Forum absent for first time
Xiamen, Sept. 20 (CNA) The head of China's political advisory body did not show up to receive a group of Taiwanese representatives attending an annual cross-strait forum on Sunday after Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) withdrew from its planned participation in the event because of what it saw as a demeaning remark by a Chinese TV presenter.
This is the first time since the inauguration of the Straits Forum in 2009 that the chairperson of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) did not receive a participating Taiwanese delegation.
Instead, Liu Jieyi (劉結一), the director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, replaced Wang Yang (汪洋), chair of the CPPCC, in receiving the visitors from Taiwan Sunday morning, before the opening ceremony of the annual forum held in Xiamen City that aims to promote cultural and economic exchanges between China and Taiwan.
The Taiwanese delegates that met with Liu included Wu Cherng-dean (吳成典), chairman of Taiwan's pro-unification New Party, and People First Party adviser Li Jian-nan (黎建南).
Lee Cheng-hung (李政宏), president of the China-based Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland (ATIEM), and Lu Li'an (盧麗安), a Taiwan-born representative to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China were also present on the occasion.
The meeting was opened to the press to take photographs but members of the media were not allowed to stay to listen to both sides' addresses.
CNA has learned that Wang will not attend the forum himself and will speak to forum participants through pre-recorded clip.
It also learned that the Chinese side decided not to send Wang and instead have the lower-ranked Liu to receive the delegation in response to KMT's decision of not sending an official delegation to the annual forum.
The KMT announced on Sept. 14 its decision to pull out of the forum in response to controversial comments made by Li Hong (李紅), a host of a talk show on China Central Television (CCTV) on Sept. 10, two days after the KMT announced that former Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) would lead the party's delegation to the forum.
During Li's show, which focused on cross-strait affairs, CCTV highlighted on the screen a headline summarizing Li's comments: "With the strait on the brink of war, this man is coming to the mainland to plead for peace."
The comment implied that Wang and the KMT were heading to China to show subservience to Beijing in cross-strait affairs, and it stirred controversy and anger in Taiwan.
In response, the KMT has asked Li to apologize for the comment, but the request had not been answered before the party announced that it would not send a delegation to the forum.
The KMT, however, did not bar its members from attending the forum in a private capacity.
The Straits Forum, initiated by Beijing, has been co-sponsored by numerous organizations across the Taiwan Strait.
The KMT has seen the forum as a symbol of peace between Taiwan and China and had sent delegations to the event every year.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration, meanwhile, has urged Taiwanese individuals and political groups not to attend the annual event because doing so could be in violation of national security laws.
The DPP has argued that the forum has been used by Beijing to drum up support among Taiwanese for Chinese President Xi Jinping's plan to unify China and Taiwan.
Some KMT officials and others, however, say it's all the more important to have dialogue between the two sides amid the recent heightened tensions and military activities between the two sides, which could lead to an accident or even armed conflict.
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