Lien Chan Beijing-bound to explain cross-strait policy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 April, 2008, 12:00am

Lien Chan, a senior Taiwanese politician who has played a key role in forging closer ties between the island's incoming Kuomintang government and the mainland, will arrive in Beijing tomorrow to explain president-elect Ma Ying-jeou's cross-strait policy.

Mr Lien, former KMT chairman and now honorary chairman, still wields influence in the party. He will meet President Hu Jintao on Tuesday, Taiwan's future chief negotiator with the mainland confirmed yesterday.

Chiang Pin-kung, who has been appointed chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation and is a KMT vice-president, said Mr Lien would spend 10 days touring the mainland.

'Mr Lien will certainly take our thoughts and the core ideas of Mr Ma's cross-strait policy to Mr Hu. We also hope the trip will strengthen our co-operation and help get our policies implemented,' Mr Chiang said.

Mr Ma, who will be inaugurated on May 20, said he respected Mr Lien's decision to visit Beijing and had asked him to pass on his best wishes to Mr Hu.

Mr Lien made a ground-breaking trip to the mainland in his capacity as KMT chairman in April 2005, helping to establish a dialogue between the two parties.

His historic visit was warmly received by the Communist Party because Beijing was keen to rein in Taiwan's pro-independence movement, championed by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party - KMT's main political rival on the island.

But Taiwan expert Timothy Wong Ka-ying, associate director of Chinese University's Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, believes Mr Lien's latest visit will be less significant than his 2005 trip.

'From Mr Ma's point of view, issues which are only up for initial discussion can be discussed by the two parties first. Important policies, however, can only be decided by the two governments,' Dr Wong said.

'Mr Chiang, who has been hand-picked by Mr Ma to head the SEF, probably represents Mr Ma better than Mr Lien, who is fading out politically,' he added.

'It is understandable that Mr Lien wants to show his influence over cross-strait relations. But there are subtle differences between Mr Ma and Mr Lien, such as their attitudes towards the one-China principle.'

Dr Wong said Mr Ma's response to Mr Lien's visit showed the president-elect had 'reservations' about the trip.

'Respect is not necessarily equal to support. Mr Ma has actually dropped a hint that he has reservations about this.'

Mr Lien will attend a banquet in Beijing tomorrow night hosted by Chen Yunlin , director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

Mr Lien will hold talks with Mr Hu the following day and meet Jia Qinglin , the fourth-ranking Communist Party leader in charge of Taiwan affairs.