04/26/2005, 00.00
TAIWAN-CHINA
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Kuomintang's President in China on "journey of peace"

Lien Chan, leader of Taiwan's major opposition party, leaves the island amidst violent demonstrations against his seven-day visit to China. He is scheduled to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Lien Chan, President of the Kuomintang (KMT), Taiwan's main opposition party, left today on a seven-day visit to China leading a 70-member delegation. His stay on the mainland includes stops in Nanjing, Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai.

On his agenda are talks with Hu Jintao, China's President and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Their meeting is scheduled for Friday, April 29.

Speaking about relations with the Communists, he said that the "KMT and CCP had bitter conflicts that eventually led to a civil war," but "it was time to adopt a new attitude to cross-strait relations".

Mr Lien explained that in his meeting with Chinese officials, he would exchange views "in the interest of the island and its 23 million people", but said he would not rule out to talk about Beijing's Anti-Secession Law—which was adopted on March 14 of this year authorising the use of force against Taiwan if it moves towards independence— although he was not representing the government in talks with the mainland.

He made this last point clear during a telephone conversation with President Chen Shui-bian later on Monday, April 25. "This journey of peace," he told Mr Chen, "is being made by an individual, and will not involve issues that need authorisation from the government".

Mr Lien stressed he would report to the government on any positive messages about cross-strait rapprochement made by Beijing. The island's government could then decide how to respond.

Mr Chen initially opposed Mr Lien's visit, but had a change of heart after talks with US officials.

The KMT delegation left the Chiang Kai-shek international airport as hundreds of pro-independence demonstrators violently protested against the trip, clashing with up to 100 Lien supporters. Some of the protesters waved placards slamming Lien for "selling out Taiwan" or inviting him "to leave", whilst others threw eggs and stones.

Vincent Siew Wan-chang, a former Taiwanese premier and KMT vice-chairman, spoke in an interview with the South China Morning Post about Lien's trip.

Mr Siew said real progress in cross-strait relations could be only achieved "through government-to-government contact. Any attempt by Beijing to bypass the Taiwanese government to reach agreements with political parties would only hurt the feelings of the Taiwanese people."

He criticised the ruling Democratic Progressive Party government for not consulting opposition parties about cross-strait policy and failing to unite them in its dealings with Beijing.

"If we, the ruling and opposition parties, are united and have a co-ordinated policy, we would have the bargaining power [we need] in negotiations with Beijing," he said.

Mr Siew, who backs a closer economic partnership arrangement between the mainland and Taiwan, urged Beijing to make "substantive concessions" to the island so that it could enjoy the same status as Hong Kong and Macau.

"Such an agreement", he believes, "would increase pressure on the Taiwanese government to make corresponding concessions on cross-strait relations", he said.

"Given Taiwan's current situation," he stressed, "if Beijing offered to help Taiwan back into the international community and solve the island's international status issue, it would win the hearts of the Taiwanese people."

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