Frank Hsieh of Taiwan's opposition DPP announces mainland China visit

Frank Hsieh to become most senior figure from island's opposition DPP welcomed to mainland

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2012, 5:13am


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Taiwan's former premier Frank Hsieh Chang-ting yesterday announced a planned trip that would make him the most senior politician from the island's Beijing-sceptic opposition party to visit the mainland.

The trip, described by local media as an "ice-breaking" visit, came amid debate in the party about whether to change its policy towards the mainland.

Hsieh, who was Taiwan's premier from 2005 to 2006 and retains major influence in the Democratic Progressive Party, said he would leave on Thursday.

"The purpose of the trip is to build mutual trust," he said, declining to divulge whether he would meet mainland government officials during the five-day visit.

Beijing said it welcomes visits to the mainland by DPP members, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported. "This has been our policy all along," Yang Yi , spokesman for the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, was quoted as saying.

Hsieh's first stop will be the southeastern coastal city of Xiamen , in Fujian province followed by a visit to nearby Dongshan Island, where his ancestors lived before relocating to Taiwan. Later, Hsieh will go to Beijing, where he plans to visit the Olympic stadium and attend an international cocktail contest as a guest of the International Bartenders Association.

In January, Taiwanese voters re-elected President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang party, endorsing the Beijing-friendly policies he has pursued since taking office in 2008. Since then, leading DPP members have debated whether their party needs to change its policy towards the mainland, in part to reflect Beijing's fast-expanding regional and global influence.

"The DPP should face the reality … if the DPP keeps refusing to change its position and let the Kuomintang and the Chinese communist parties work hand in hand, I'm afraid the DPP will never be able to get back into power," Hsieh said.

Hsu Yung-ming, a political science professor at Taipei's Soochow University, said that "although the [DPP] party authorities have not decided to amend their [mainland] China policy at the moment, the results of the visit could be used as a key reference in the future".

Additional reporting by Staff Reporter