Top mainland Chinese official Zhang Zhijun arrives in Taipei to sound out public

Mainland official wants to understand island; its president says he needs to 'do more homework'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 3:11am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 6:09pm

The mainland's top official in charge of Taiwan affairs yesterday had his first personal experience of everyday life on the island and said it would help him better understand local attitudes towards cross-strait relations.

"As head of the Taiwan Affairs Office, this is very important to me, especially when most of my colleagues have visited Taiwan before," Zhang Zhijun said during his first trip to the island.

He made the comments during a visit to a community centre in New Taipei City where he chatted with a group of residents.

Zhang later visited a daycare centre for senior citizens with New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu Li-luan, seen as a possible contender for the governing Kuomintang in presidential elections in 2016.

Zhang arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday for a four-day visit. His office comes under the control of the State Council, the mainland's cabinet.

He said he wanted to have more chances to exchange views and share experiences with local communities in various parts of the island.

The island's President, Ma Ying-jeou, told Forbes magazine in an interview published yesterday that, in order to understand the island better, authorities on the mainland "need to do more homework".

Zhang and New Taipei mayor Chu exchanged views about the future of cross-strait relations during their meeting.

"I told director Zhang that in developing cross-strait relations, aside from having the necessary ambition, it is also important to be able to respect others' opinions, understand why and how others feel that way," Chu said.

Several small groups of demonstrators, including those from the tiny pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union and the spiritual movement Falun Gong, which is banned on the mainland, have continued protests during Zhang's visit.

They criticised a recent comment by the Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Fan Liqing that the future of the island would be decided by all Chinese people, not just those in Taiwan itself.

In his interview with Forbes, Ma said Fan's statement had stirred opposition in Taiwan.

"They stated their traditional position, without realising that, for Taiwan, this is unacceptable," he was quoted a saying.

"So even though the mainland has invested a great deal in researching Taiwan, their organisations often send people to Taiwan, they still need to do more homework," he said.