Chinese minister arrives in Taiwan
Zhang holds talks with MAC minister
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-06-25 02:49 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun began his first-ever official visit to Taiwan Wednesday with talks with his counterpart, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi.

The Beijing official was the highest-ranking member of the communist regime ever to set foot in Taiwan. The first official meeting with Wang took place in the afternoon at the Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport Hotel.

At news conferences after the talks, the ministers announced they had made a breakthrough on at least one issue. Once the MAC would have opened offices in China and the TAO in Taiwan, officials would have the right to visit suspects in detention. The topic has been a long-standing demand from the Taiwanese side as business people from the island have sometimes complained of legal troubles in China.

As Zhang arrived at the airport, he said “hello everybody” in Taiwanese, while protesters reportedly shouted “go back.” In his opening address at the meeting with Wang, he said that even though Taiwan was a three-hour flight away from Beijing, this step had taken 65 years.

In his speech, Wang emphasized the historic significance of the first visit to Taiwan by a TAO minister. He also said he hoped the Chinese official would “understand Taiwan’s constitutional system and environment, Taiwan’s civic ideology and development.”

Zhang’s four-day visit was a response to the MAC minister’s own unprecedented trip to China last February, when the two met in Nanjing. The Chinese official was planning to visit several parts of Taiwan, including New Taipei City, Taichung, Changhua County and Kaohsiung, as well as meet with Chinese spouses and more “grassroots” residents of Taiwan than previous visitors from Beijing had.

The Chinese government minister wanted to project a less elitist image by talking with Taiwanese farmers, students, fishermen, indigenous people and ordinary citizens, reports said. Wang said before the trip that he would give Zhang a full range of Taiwanese opinions. The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou has been criticized for giving China only a limited view of Taiwan by representing his Kuomintang’s opinions as the general consensus.

Zhang would “meet the grassroots and talk directly to the public to experience personally Taiwan’s multicultural and vibrant society,” the MAC minister said. The Chinese official would “hear the voice of the Taiwanese people, understand the way of life of the Taiwanese people and respect the choices of the Taiwanese people,” Wang said in his speech.

The only leading figure in the opposition Democratic Progressive Party Zhang was likely to meet during his stay was Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu, reports said.

Wang said the main topics for discussion were the further development of cross-straits relations, Taiwan’s membership of regional economic organizations and the setting up of representative offices for the MAC and the TAO in China and Taiwan.

After Wednesday’s formal talks, Wang and Zhang were likely to meet again in a more relaxed atmosphere in Kaohsiung on Friday.

Critics have accused the Chinese minister of having timed his visit to coincide with a review by a special session of the Legislative Yuan of the trade-in-services pact and of the plan to set up Special Economic Pilot Zones. Both projects have been described as being too favorable to China and detrimental to Taiwan’s economic independence.

Students who occupied the Legislative Yuan from March 18 to April 10 to stop the passage of the trade pact were out in force outside the hotel where the meeting took place Wednesday.

Speaking in Kaohsiung, former President Lee Teng-hui said Taiwan’s future could only be decided by the Taiwanese people. “Taiwan is Taiwan and China is China, so I hope Zhang Zhijun will use this opportunity to understand what Taiwanese people really think,” he said.

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