Blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, who fled house arrest in China and sought refuge in the US embassy in Beijing last year, was yesterday received by the head of Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, while officials from the ruling Kuomintang kept their distance.
DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang told Chen that many leading DPP politicians had been political dissidents imprisoned under one-party KMT rule in Taiwan in the 1970s and '80s and urged mainland activists not to give up hope in their fight for democracy.
Chen, who is on a two-week fact-finding visit to Taiwan, said regimes that repress their own people are "doomed to fail".
Asked after the meeting whether the DPP should abandon its pro-independence stance - a condition set by China for bilateral talks - the blind activist said: "The concept of independence is outdated."
He added that he was more supportive of the concept of "one country, two systems", although it should be decided by a vote of citizens as to which regime they would choose, and not be imposed by the authorities. DPP spokesman Jason Lai said Chen was entitled to his view.
In sharp contrast, officials from the Kuomintang, which has been improving ties with Beijing since being elected to power again in 2008, declined to meet the blind activist during his visit.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's office said the president had no plans to receive Chen, and speaker of the legislature Wang Jin-pyng backed out of a proposed meeting.
An opinion article in Global Times, a mainland state-run newspaper, yesterday said Chen risked becoming a "political puppet of overseas forces".
But Chen said: "In my heart there are only Taiwanese people, not the DDP or KMT parties. So long as they are friends who genuinely care for human rights and social justice, I am willing to befriend them."
Chen has said repeatedly during the past few days that Taiwanese officials should make an effort to meet ordinary mainland Chinese and activists, and not just seek closer ties with mainland officials.
Professor Wang Kung-yi, an expert on cross-strait issues at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University in Taipei, said the fact that Chen was courted by the DPP but snubbed by the KMT was a matter of political strategy.
"This is a sharp contrast between the blue [KMT] and the green [DPP] camps," he said. "These are issues to do with votes and factional struggles, and that's why the DPP embraces Chen Guangcheng."
The DPP had always attached more importance to human rights and local Taiwanese issues, he added.