Beijing respects Taiwan’s social system and values, says senior official

After protests over trade pact, Yu Zhengsheng delivers a goodwill message at cross-strait forum

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 June, 2014, 2:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 11:28am

Beijing respects Taiwan's social system and values, a senior Communist Party leader said yesterday, in the wake of sweeping protests in Taiwan over a controversial cross-strait trade deal.

Yu Zhengsheng, the mainland's top political adviser and a member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee, said problems in cross-strait relations should be resolved by giving "more understanding, respect and consideration from the perspective of a family" to Taiwan, Xinhua reported.

Yu made the remarks at a forum on cross-strait ties in Xiamen , attended by more than 10,000 delegates from Taiwan, including its legislature's deputy speaker, Hung Hsiu-chu.

"We respect their identification with the current social system, values and lifestyles; and we know that some friends still harbour misgivings on the development of the cross-strait relations," Yu said, per Xinhua.

Protesters, many of them university students, occupied Taiwan's parliament during three weeks of mass agitation starting in March. They expressed anger over a trade pact with the mainland they fear will benefit wealthy companies with mainland links and undermine Taiwan's cherished democratic institutions.

"The development of cross-strait relations is like sailing on the sea," Yu said. "You're never going to have favourable winds throughout the voyage."

Yu said Beijing would also listen to people from all walks of life in Taiwan, and encouraged Taiwan's young, who have "exceptional qualities", to realise their potential on the "broad stage" of cross-trait cooperation.

The mainland's top government official in charge of relations with Taiwan, the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office director Zhang Zhijun , is to make a historic visit to the island this month, the first time a mainland bureaucrat will do so in his official capacity since the end of the civil war in 1949.

At the same forum, Zhang called for more support for small and medium-sized companies in cross-strait cooperation and expansion of youth-exchange activities, Xinhua reported.

Liu Guoshen , head of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute, said Yu's remarks showed that the mainland leadership was trying to display goodwill and respect towards Taiwanese people, especially the younger ones, following the protest over the trade pact.

"Yu's speech can be seen as a response to the protests … as he pledged to better engage young people from both sides," Liu said.

"This shows the mainland leadership is very clear-minded in its approach to the cross-strait relationship, despite some angry young people on the mainland voicing grudges [against Taiwanese people] online over the past months," Liu said.

He added that Beijing's overall stance towards Taiwan would not change, but that it would fine-tune its approach to be more "patient and tolerant".