Ex-leader of Taiwan's DPP criticised over talks with Chinese officials

Former leader of Taiwan's pro-independence party criticised over talks with mainland officials at Hong Kong forum and in Shenzhen

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 5:20am

Talks between a former head of Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party and prominent mainland officials in Hong Kong and Shenzhen over the weekend marked a milestone in exchanges between the DPP and the Communist Party, which have a history of failing to see eye to eye.

But in Taiwan, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting faced a wave of criticism from the DPP's hard-core faction, which asked him to quit the party because of what they called his betrayal of its pro-independence stance.

Hsieh returned to Taipei yesterday after co-hosting a two-day forum with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences - a mainland government-funded think tank - in Hong Kong that ended on Sunday. The meeting saw him and nine DPP lawmakers meet 23 mainland officials and scholars, followed by a landmark meeting in Shenzhen that day with Zhang Zhijun , director of the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) under the mainland's State Council.

It was the first time that Beijing had sent so many officials and scholars to Hong Kong to meet such a large group of DPP lawmakers.

In Shenzhen, the TAO even helped Hsieh set up a meeting with a big group of Taiwanese businessmen based on the mainland. This was described by the local media and pundits as significant and signalling a new approach by Beijing in dealing with the DPP.

[The talks] are aimed at finding another alternative or another possibility for the DPP" in dealing with its cross-strait policy

"[The talks] are aimed at finding another alternative or another possibility for the DPP" in dealing with its cross-strait policy, said Hsieh - seen as one of the most conciliatory DPP politicians in regard to the mainland - upon arriving at Taoyuan International Airport, south of Taipei.

He stressed that, in formulating cross-strait policy, there was a need for the DPP to "look from the grand perspective", and at how the DPP can avert being marginalised in cross-strait talks now monopolised by the ruling Kuomintang, which has held talks with the Communist Party since 2005.

"Normal exchanges are not equivalent to surrendering to or being wooed" by mainland authorities, he said, adding that he did not care about scornful attacks and criticism by others. "If they can offer more active and better proposals that are different from mine, I am willing to listen, because all I want is to solve the problem."

But Hsieh's comments, especially those about a recently signed cross-strait service trade agreement he made during the forum in Hong Kong, raised the ire of the DPP's hardline proindependence leaders at home.

"I will celebrate with firecrackers if [Hsieh] withdraws from the DPP," said Yao Chia-wen, a former Examination Yuan president under the DPP administration between 2000 and 2008.

He was referring to a comment by Hsieh, reported by several Taiwanese media outlets, saying that people in Taiwan should celebrate because the mainland made big concessions by agreeing to sign the service trade pact that Beijing said benefited Taiwan more than the mainland.

However, Hsieh later said his comment was taken out of context. He said he meant the pact was not as beneficial to Taiwan as the mainland claimed it was.

But that didn't stop DPP leaders heaping scorn on Hsieh and suggesting he was trying to boost his status within the party by being someone who had built up contacts with the mainland.

However, Hung Chi-kune, a DPP central executive committee member, said the party should "end its factional infighting and start to debate cross-strait policies to galvanise a comprehensive consensus".