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Invitation for second Taiwan party chief
By Xing Zhigang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-19 06:40

Beijing yesterday stepped up efforts for party-to-party dialogue across the Straits with a formal invitation to a second Taiwan opposition leader.

Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, invited Taiwan opposition leader James Soong, pictured, to visit the mainland, just weeks after Beijing feted a high-level Kuomintang party (KMT) delegation. [AFP]
Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), formally invited People First Party (FPP) Chairman James Soong to visit the mainland.

Xinhua News Agency said Hu, in his capacity as CPC chief, "welcomed and invited Soong to head a PFP delegation to tour and visit the mainland."

Xinhua cited Chen Yunlin, director of the Taiwan Work Office of the CPC Central Committee. Chen had been officially authorized to make the announcement and hoped the PFP would send personnel to the mainland to arrange Soong's visit.

"We believe that Chairman Soong's visit will help promote cross-Straits exchanges and contribute to the relaxation and stability of cross-Straits ties," said Chen, who also heads the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

Soong "happily accepted" Hu's invitation and will send PFP Secretary-General Chin Ching-sheng to the mainland to arrange the visit on Saturday, he was quoted by Taiwanese media as saying in Taipei yesterday.

As early as May

Soong is likely to visit as early as May, the PFP said.

The invitation from Hu came just ahead of an upcoming mainland visit by Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan, who is preparing to embark on what the KMT called a "journey of peace" to the mainland late this month or early May.

KMT Secretary-General Lin Feng-cheng arrived in Beijing yesterday to finalize details of Lien's planned trip with the Taiwan Affairs Office.

Chang Hsien-yao, director of the PFP's Centre of Policy Research, reportedly described the mainland move as "a highly friendly gesture."

The planned mainland visits by both Lien and Soong followed the KMT's first trip to the mainland in 56 years between March 28 and April 1.

Headed by KMT Vice-Chairman Chiang Pin-kung, a 34-member KMT delegation made the historic mainland visit, which was widely hailed as an "ice-breaking trip" to open CPC-KMT dialogue.

While meeting the KMT group on March 31, Jia Qinglin, a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, extended a formal invitation to Lien on behalf of Hu.

The KMT leader later accepted the invitation and has been forging ahead with the planned visit despite pressure from the Taiwan authorities.

Jia has also made it clear the mainland will welcome the chairmen of other political parties in Taiwan who uphold the "1992 consensus," oppose "Taiwan independence" and support the development of cross-Straits ties.

1992 consensus

The "1992 consensus" refers to an informal agreement which commits both sides of the Straits to adhering to the one-China principle that both the mainland and Taiwan belong to one and the same China.

Analysts said the inter-party interaction between the CPC and Taiwan's opposition parties is conducive to easing cross-Straits tensions, given the current political stalemate between Taipei and Beijing.

The mainland has refused to deal with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration as the DPP enshrines "Taiwan independence" in its party platform and rejects the one-China principle.

The DPP came to power in the 2000 "presidential" elections and won a controversial re-election in 2004.

Chen told Xinhua on Friday that the obstacle for Beijing's exchanges with the DPP comes from the ruling party's pro-"independence" platform. But to show a sign of pragmatism and flexibility, he indicated that party membership will not be the sole determining factor for an invitation.

"We draw a distinction between members of the DPP and the stubborn few who insist on 'Taiwan independence'," Chen said, welcoming the former to visit the mainland.

For instance, he added, Beijing had already invited eight mayors of Taiwanese cities - with three of them being DPP members - to attend an Asia-Pacific mayors' summit in the southwestern city of Chongqing this October.

(China Daily 04/19/2005 page1)

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