Beijing offers pandas, plus concessions on tourism to island and fruit imports Taiwanese opposition leader Lien Chan returned to the island yesterday armed with 'gifts' from Beijing - offers for prospects of closer economic ties and a pair of pandas. The offers - which will remain up in the air without the nod of the Taiwanese government - include a relaxation of restrictions on mainland tourism to the island and an increase in the types of fruit Taiwan can export to the mainland. Shortly after Mr Lien set off for home on a plane via Hong Kong, Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian extended an invitation for President Hu Jintao to visit the island. 'I really hope that he can come to Taiwan and see for himself whether the Republic of China Taiwan is or is not a sovereign country and what Taiwanese people are thinking,' he said. 'Chinese leaders don't recognise Taiwan as a sovereign country but this is not what Taiwanese people believe.' Mr Chen's request was quickly sidestepped by deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office Wang Zaixi , who reiterated the '1992 consensus' as the condition for consultation with Chen Shui-bian and his Democratic Progressive Party. Beijing's offers, announced by the director of the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, Chen Yunlin , are the latest move to woo the Taiwanese people and ease cross-strait tensions arising from its enactment of the Anti-Secession Law, as well as to undermine pro-independence forces on the island. Apart from yesterday's offers, Mr Lien also secured from his meeting with Mr Hu, the Communist Party chief, last Friday pledges to promote cross-strait exchanges and seek a peace accord. In an announcement issued by Xinhua, Mr Chen said the visit by Mr Lien, and the upcoming trip by another opposition party leader, James Soong Chu-yu of the People First Party, created a good timing for the offers. He said the pandas were a present from the mainland people to the Taiwanese people. Taipei responded guardedly, with President Chen saying the government had to ensure the gift of pandas complied with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. In the second concession, Chen Yunlin said the mainland would expand the varieties of fruit imported from Taiwan by six to 18, with about 10 types to be tariff-free. Southern Taiwan is a traditional stronghold of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, so the move might help the KMT win support in this region, analysts say. Mr Chen urged the Taiwanese government to hold talks with the island's agriculture industry groups to allow direct shipping for the perishable fruit. Taiwan bans direct trade and transport links with the mainland, so goods must pass through a third region. Mr Chen said the third offer, allowing mainland citizens to travel to Taiwan for sightseeing, would boost the prosperity of Taiwan's travel, restaurant, service and related industries.