DPP officer on mainland visit for cross-strait forum

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 March, 2012, 12:00am


A spokesman for Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party has left for the mainland to attend a cross-strait seminar, in what Taiwanese media have described as an ice-breaking visit.

DPP spokesman Lo Chih-cheng left for Yunnan yesterday in his capacity as a political science professor at Taipei's Soochow University, the pro-independence party said. He was scheduled to attend a two-day seminar on cross-strait relations, sponsored by a think tank under the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, from today, it said.

Lo's trip - the first by any senior DPP official since 2008 - comes just weeks after former party chairwoman Dr Tsai Ing-wen said it needed to increase its understanding of the mainland through interaction if it was to regain power.

At a DPP meeting last month to review her defeat in January's presidential election, Tsai admitted that the mainland was one major factor. Tsai lost to incumbent Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou even though the DPP - which governed the island from 2000 to 2008 - had been hopeful of a return to power. Ma's promise of cross-strait stability and prosperity was viewed by the DPP as one major factor helping the president win a second four-year term in the face of the global economic downturn and financial instability.

Lo's visit was approved by the DPP, which used to restrict its senior officials from visiting the mainland under its pro-independence platform and anti-mainland policy.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, who took over from Tsai as acting DPP chairwoman, said yesterday that Lo had been invited to visit the mainland as a scholar and what he said during his visit would not represent the DPP. But she admitted the party had approved his visit.

'I believe at least it would help promote understanding between the DPP and the mainland.' she said, adding that as a DPP spokesman, it would certainly be a plus for Lo to attend the event. 'This kind of visit will also allow China to have more understanding of the DPP and the pluralistic voices of Taiwanese society.'

Taiwanese media said the visit represented a DPP breakthrough in easing its anti-mainland stance, but Chen said that might be 'over-interpreting' the situation.

Before leaving for the mainland yesterday, Lo said the DPP had not given him any message to pass on at the seminar and he would not deliberately avoid mainland officials.

Kao Huei, director of the Kuomintang's mainland affairs department, applauded Lo's visit, saying it was a 'positive move' and it was good for the pro-independence party to have its voice heard.

In Beijing, Taiwan Affairs Office director Wang Yi said it welcomed 'any experts and scholars from any political parties and groups from Taiwan' to be take part.

Separately, former Tainan magistrate Su Huan-chih said yesterday that he would run for the DPP's chairmanship in party elections on May 27. His bid is certain to threaten two DPP stalwarts, former premiers Su Tseng-chang and Frank Hsieh Chang-ting.