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May 28, 2017

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Lai does us a favor by putting Beijing's stance in the open

Many political figures and commentators believe that better understanding and communication between Taipei and Beijing are essential to easing cross-strait tensions and avoiding miscalculations. But China's latest reiteration of its firm opposition to the Taiwan independence cause has shown that something more may be needed.

Such a belief has also been embraced by many opposition leaders, including Tainan Mayor William Lai, who has taken the blame for forcing China to come to terms with Taiwan's stance on its sovereignty.

Lai, a rising star from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, made a surprise visit to China last week, which was originally hailed by many as a ground-breaking move advancing cross-strait ties, particularly his party's with the Chinese Communist Party.

But the intention of the visit has now been questioned following China's strong response to his explanation of the DPP's pro-independence leanings.

In a forum during the visit, Lai was confronted by an interlocutor who suggested that the DPP delete the pro-independence clause from the party charter. Lai replied that even if the DPP deleted the clause, it wouldn't change the fact there is support for Taiwan going independent.

He explained that the pro-independence movement existed long before the DPP was born.

But he went on to stress that despite the pro-independence clause, the DPP embraces the principle that the future of Taiwan must be decided by its own people — the very essence of self-determination.

His explanations and arguments seem clear and simple to understand. Self-determination has been more or less a national consensus and a common ground between rival camps in Taiwan. And that is exactly the official government line.

Lai's statements looked commonplace until Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) clearly stated that the island's future must be decided by all of China's people, not by Taiwan's alone.

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