Taiwans Lien Heads Home as Soong Gears Up For China Trip

Fruitful meeting? China's gift of a pair of giant pandas to Taiwan is seen as a largely symbolic gesture. File Photo: AFP/Liu Jin

HONG KONG—Taiwan opposition leader Lien Chan has wrapped up his eight-day "journey of peace" through mainland China, as his former presidential running-mate James Soong prepared for a nine-day visit there.

Kuomintang (KMT) Party chairman Lien ended his groundbreaking visit Tuesday, which included the first meeting between the leaders of the Nationalist KMT and the Chinese Communist Party since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Meanwhile, opposition People First Party chairman James Soong was scheduled to depart for China on Thursday for a nine-day visit. Soong's trip, which he is calling a "bridge-building journey."

Lien's historic visit, which included a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, was lauded throughout the Chinese official media, and culminated in the gift of two pandas from Beijing to Taiwan, together with a raft of trade concessions.

Chinese media coverage 'totally one-sided'

But U.S.-based Chinese dissidents expressed disappointment at Lien's trip, which they said had done little to further true understanding between Taiwan and China, especially on the question of democracy.

"You could tell from Lien's speech at Beida that the students there really don't understand the actual situation in Taiwan at all," former 1989 student leader Wang Dan told RFA's Mandarin service. "The questions they were asking were really nothing to do with what's going on there right now."

"So you can see that the propaganda they have received on the Chinese mainland has been totally one-sided," Wang said.

"If I were the chairman of the KMT and I went to visit Sun Yat-sen's tomb, and bowed down in front of him, I'd be crying and full of regrets. They have managed to lose political power twice now: once when they fled to Taiwan, and then they lost it again in Taiwan. So he shouldn't be looking so happy," Wang added.

Wang Chaohua, also a former June 4 student leader, said the important issue was that Taiwan, as a democracy, should be allowed to determine its own fate from within its own political system.

Lien seen too weak on democracy

"What they're doing is using an external political force to interfere in the internal, democratic politics on the island. There's poison in it. It's like a dangerous land-mine buried in the political earth of Taiwan," she told RFA.

Other analysts also said that Lien had played down Taiwan's commitment to democracy and strong rejection of Beijing's anti-secession law, which paves the way for the use of force, should the island declare formal independence.

"I don't believe that the five-point communique issued by Hu Jintao and Lien Chan represents the opinion of the majority of people in Taiwan," Zhang Wuyue, head of the mainland affairs research unit at Taipei's Tankiang University said in a panel discussion on RFA's Mandarin service.

"Lien did not state clearly his opposition to the anti-secession law—perhaps he didn't want to cause trouble for his hosts," Zhang said.

Beijing-based writer and commentator Liu Xiaobo said Lien's and Soong's visits were probably catalyzed by widespread opposition to the anti-secession law.

'The missiles are still aimed at Taiwan'

"The anti-secession law in March had a very negative impact in Taiwan and internationally...I don't think they had expected this," Liu said.

Some observers said former president Jiang Zemin's reported hawkishness on the Taiwan issue hadn't necessarily gone away; Beijing was simply trying a new tactic.

"I think it represents a new departure in the methods that the Communist Party is using to deal with the cross-Straits issue," independent commentator Jiang Qisheng told RFA.

"But I don't believe for a minute that they aren't still preparing for war. The missiles are still aimed at Taiwan. I have studied aeronautics—firing them at Taiwan would be the easiest thing in the world," Jiang said.

Soong's May 5-13 tour will largely mirror Lien's, taking in Nanjing and the tomb of Sun Yat-sen, his Hunan hometown, and including meetings with Hu and Wang Daohan, Beijing's top negotiator on cross-Straits relations.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Hu Hanqiang, Shen Hua, Lin Di, and Xiao Rong. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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