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Ex-President Ma departs on trip of 'friendship and peace' to China

04/01/2024 03:42 PM
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Former President Ma Ying-jeou (second left) waves to the press at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport before he embarked on his trip to China on Monday. CNA photo April 1, 2024
Former President Ma Ying-jeou (second left) waves to the press at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport before he embarked on his trip to China on Monday. CNA photo April 1, 2024

Taipei, April 1 (CNA) Former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Monday departed with a student delegation on an 11-day trip to China, which he said will be used to deliver a message of friendship and peace.

Speaking to reporters before boarding his flight at Taoyuan International Airport, Ma said that amid the current cross-Taiwan Strait tensions, he would try on the visit to convey the Taiwanese people's love of peace and voice hope that the sides can increase bilateral exchanges and avoid war.

"This is a trip of peace and a trip of friendship," he said.

Having left the presidency eight years ago, and holding no governmental or political offices, "I can only do my best as an individual to promote cross-strait student exchanges, and to help reduce enmity and build goodwill between the two sides' people," Ma said.

According to an announcement made by his foundation last week, Ma is leading a group of 20 students on an April 1-11 trip to China that will include meetings with Chinese students, company tours and visits to sites of Chinese historical or cultural significance.

Former President Ma Ying-jeou (right) speaks at a press briefing at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport before he traveled to Shenzhen, China, on Monday. CNa photo April 1, 2024
Former President Ma Ying-jeou (right) speaks at a press briefing at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport before he traveled to Shenzhen, China, on Monday. CNa photo April 1, 2024

Upon arriving in Shenzhen on Monday, the delegation will spend three days in Guangdong Province, before traveling to Shaanxi Province on Wednesday night and Beijing on Sunday, the Ma Ying-jeou Culture and Education Foundation said.

Because this trip, unlike his previous visit to China last year, will include a stop in Beijing, there has been speculation that Ma could meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). Reuters has reported that the meeting is expected to take place on April 8.

The former president, who served from 2008-2016, held a historic meeting with Xi in Singapore in 2015, marking the first meeting of leaders from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait since the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

Asked about the possibility of such a meeting, Hsiao Hsu-tsen (蕭旭岑), the director of Ma's foundation, said last week that the former president hopes there will be an opportunity to "see an old friend," but will leave the exact arrangements up to the Chinese side as hosts.

(By Wu Jui-chi and Matthew Mazzetta)

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