Mixed Reactions to Lien Chans China Trip

Taiwan opposition leader Lien Chan meets students at Beijing University after giving a speech there. Photo: AFP

XIAN, China—Reactions among ordinary Chinese people to a groundbreaking visit to the mainland by Taiwan’s opposition leader, Lien Chan, have been mixed, RFA's Mandarin service reports.

Lien met Friday with Chinese President Hu Jintao—the first meeting between leaders of China's Nationalist and Communist parties in more than a half-century.

Xian revisited?

On Saturday, the Kuomintang (KMT) chairman arrived in his hometown of Xian, in northern Shaanxi province, to be greeted by thousands of people waving the flags of both parties.

The city was also the site of a humiliating episode in KMT history—the kidnapping of its Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek by the communists in December 1936, which Mao Zedong used to forge a shaky alliance with the Nationalists to fight the Japanese invasion (1937-45).

Cross-Strait talks should be led by the government, and [the] opposition party should work hard to become a ruling party.

"Joy to Lien Chan!" chanted one group of people outside his former elementary school. "Come home often!''

The warm welcome for Lien reflects his party's newly positive image in Chinese state media, as Beijing seeks allies to help counter pro-independence sentiment in the self-ruled, democratic island.

Meanwhile, Taiwan government officials, who were suspicious from the start that Lien would strike unauthorized deals with Beijing, threatened Lien with an investigation into whether he overstepped his powers.

Joint statement by Hu and Lien

"Lien failed to promote Taiwan's democratic developments in China... He criticized the government and dwarfed Taiwan's sovereignty," Taiwanese Vice President Annette Lu said.

"Cross-Strait talks should be led by the government, and [the]opposition party should work hard to become a ruling party," Taiwan's Premier Frank Hsieh told reporters. "Relevant organizations will determine whether [the Lien-Hu joint statement] broke the law."

In a joint statement released at the end of their talks Friday, Hu and Lien said the KMT and China's Communist Party agreed to oppose Taiwan's independence while seeking the resumption of bilateral talks and expanded economic exchanges.

While the official mainland Chinese media lauded Lien's trip, saying ordinary Chinese were overjoyed at a potential warming of cross-Straits ties, callers to RFA's hotlines had mixed views.

Both parties 'fundamentally rotten'

"Lien Chan, the chairman of the Nationalist Party, is a weasel," one caller from the eastern province of Shandong told RFA's Mandarin service.

"The Nationalists bully members of the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan. Their attack on DPP followers is merciless. And yet the Nationalists are all smiles to the Chinese Communists, like a little lamb."

"Visiting the mainland at the invitation of the Chinese Communist Party—can’t they see it’s just another trick by the CCP? And an old one at that? It’s déjà vu all over again, going way back to the 1940s. Hasn’t the Nationalist Party learned anything from its painful experience in dealing with the CCP?" the caller said.

Visiting the mainland at the invitation of the Chinese Communist Party—can’t they see it’s just another trick by the CCP? And an old one at that?

Others echoed calls for Lien to use his trip to promote political change in Beijing.

"The purpose of this trip is for the Nationalist Party to win public support and consequently ballots in Taiwan," said a 40-year-old farmer in the southern province of Guangdong.

"I think the Communist Party and the Nationalist Party are both fundamentally rotten. Chen Shui-bian has the guts to tell the Chinese Communist Party that without democracy there is no unification. But Lien Chan would never have the guts to say that," he added.

Several callers were deeply mistrustful of the political motives for Lien's visit.

"The trip has caused instability in Taiwan itself," said a listener from Nanjing, the first stop on Lien's "peace tour," and the former capital of the KMT's Republic of China (1911-49).

"Neither the Nationalist Party nor the Communist Party represents the Chinese people. These two parties are responsible for the deaths of perhaps up to 100 million people. Whatever deal they strike this time will be a laughingstock in a historical context," the caller said.

They also regarded Lien as having little power to effect change in tense relations across the Taiwan Strait.

Sun Yat-sen, symbol of common roots

"I don’t think it’s necessary for Lien Chan to visit the mainland. Half a century ago, the Communists clobbered the Nationalists. As a result, the Nationalists withdrew to Taiwan. And now the people on Taiwan have voted the Nationalist Party out of power there," a caller from the northeast province of Jilin said.

"So I don’t attach much importance to Lien Chan’s trip. What’s he doing here?"

Not all were pessimistic, however.

It doesn’t matter how emotionally one feels about the issue, we should try to resolve our differences in a civilized way, through democracy and the rule of law.

"It doesn’t matter how emotionally one feels about the issue, we should try to resolve our differences in a civilized way, through democracy and the rule of law," a listener in northeastern Liaoning told RFA's Mandarin service.

"If there is no law to go by, then we must sit down and talk....I think it’s a good thing. Communication is helpful to the resolution of conflicts. It can help us avoid military confrontation," the listener said.

Mainland China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the KMT and its followers fled to the island after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong's communists in 1949.

Though the communist regime in Beijing has never had control of Taiwan, it regards the island as a breakaway province, which it threatens with force should it seek formal statehood.

Beijing ensures that Taiwan remains barred from membership of international bodies such as the United Nations, and the island has few formal diplomatic ties.

Tensions have been reignited by Beijing's enactment of an anti-secession law in March, which sanctioned non-peaceful measures against Taiwan should it push for formal independent nationhood.

In a public honoring of both Communist and Nationalist ideological roots, Lien visited the tomb of KMT founder and revolutionary Sun Yat-sen, who is revered as the leader of the 1911 revolution and the founder of modern China on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Original reporting in Mandarin by RFA's Mandarin service, directed by Jennifer Chou. Produced for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han and Luisetta Mudie.


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