Hu congratulates Ma over election victory

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 July, 2005, 12:00am

KMT sees message as friendly; media says it is a snub

President Hu Jintao yesterday congratulated Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou on his election as chairman of the Kuomintang, in what was seen by the KMT as a friendly gesture to the favourite in the island's next presidential race.

Mr Hu said he looked forward to working with the KMT to promote cross-strait ties.

'I sincerely hope that our two parties can work together to continue to promote the peaceful and steady development of cross-strait relations, and make efforts for the bright future of the Chinese nation,' he said in his capacity as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.

Mr Ma defeated his KMT rival Wang Jin-pyng in a landslide, winning 72.4 per cent of the vote.

Taiwanese media said Mr Hu's statement came a day late and speculated that this reflected the mainland's doubts about Mr Ma, a candidate it did not favour.

But KMT spokesman Chang Yung-kung dismissed this suggestion, saying even if the mainland had had doubts about Mr Ma's cross-strait policy, the congratulatory message meant Beijing no longer believed it mattered.

He said the message meant Beijing wanted amiable relations with Mr Ma, who formally becomes chairman when Lien Chan steps down next month. Mr Ma said he did not rule out a visit to the mainland. He said he would be busy building on Mr Lien's peace initiative with Beijing, which resulted from his landmark visit to the mainland in April. Mr Lien's visit succeeded in bringing about a reconciliation between the KMT and its long-time rival the Communist Party.

In his leadership campaign Mr Ma promised to uphold Mr Lien's cross-strait policy and denounced independence for Taiwan.