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Former President Ma to lead student delegation to China

03/25/2024 05:39 PM
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Former President Ma Ying-jeou is pictured during his visit to the former presidential office of the Republic of China in Nanjing in March 2023. CNA file photo
Former President Ma Ying-jeou is pictured during his visit to the former presidential office of the Republic of China in Nanjing in March 2023. CNA file photo

Taipei, March 25 (CNA) Former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will lead a delegation of Taiwanese students on a visit to China from April 1 to April 11, the head of his foundation said Monday.

Speaking at a press conference, Ma Ying-jeou Culture and Education Foundation Director Hsiao Hsu-tsen (蕭旭岑) said the delegation is planning to visit companies and sites of Chinese historical or cultural significance in Guangdong and Shaanxi provinces and Beijing.

The group will also attend a ceremony at the Tomb of the Yellow Emperor and hold exchanges with students at Beijing University and Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangdong, Hsiao said.

In addition to the former president and Hsiao, the delegation will include former Ma administration officials Wang Kuang-tzu (王光慈) and Chiu Kun-hsuan (邱坤玄), and 20 student members of the foundation's Dajiu Academy (大九學堂), according to Hsiao.

Asked if any meetings with high-level officials had been planned, Hsiao said that as with Ma's previous trip to China last spring, the specific arrangements would be left up to the Chinese side, which is hosting the delegation.

Hsiao was also asked if Ma hoped to use the visit to ease cross-Taiwan Strait tensions ahead of the inauguration of Lai Ching-te (賴清德) as Taiwan's new president on May 20.

He replied that recent tensions aside, Ma believes that cross-strait exchanges are always important, particularly for young people.

Ma will report the details of the planned trip to the Presidential Office, Hsiao said, as is required by law.

Separately on Monday, China's Taiwan Affairs Office issued a statement welcoming Ma's planned visit and confirming his itinerary.

Meanwhile, ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Wu Szu-yao (吳思瑤) said that given the Kuomintang's (KMT) recent push to have President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) visit Taiping Island, she hoped Ma would use the trip to "declare sovereignty" over the Taiwan-controlled island, which is also claimed by Vietnam, China and the Philippines.

Unlike Tsai, however, Ma visited the island, also known as Itu Aba, at the end of his presidency in January 2016 to reaffirm Taiwan's sovereignty over the territory despite objections from the United States, Vietnam and China.

Ma, a member of the KMT who served as president from 2008 to 2016, previously traveled to China from March 27 to April 7 last year, in the first such visit by a former president in Taiwan.

Because the upcoming trip will include a stop in Beijing, there has been media speculation about a potential reprise of Ma's 2015 meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平).

Neither side, however, has made any statements suggesting that such a meeting is in the works.

(By Wang Chang-chung, Lu Chia-jung and Matthew Mazzetta)

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