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Tainan mayor urges cross-strait tolerance

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Cross-strait exchanges must be accompanied by tolerance of different voices in order to dispel misunderstanding, said a mayor from Taiwan's pro-independence opposition party yesterday during his ground-breaking visit to China.

Tainan Mayor William Lai said the expanding cross-strait exchanges in recent years have resulted in more suspicions and concerns among the Taiwan public, rather than better understanding between the two sides, because there has been only “one voice.”

Lai, a prominent figure from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said cross-strait exchanges need “multiple voices.”

“If the DPP doesn't come here, it won't understand the situations here. Neither will you understand what the DPP thinks,” Lai said at a forum held at Fudan University in Shanghai to discuss a wide range of issues with its teachers and students.

The DPP believes that it should be “actively” and “confidently” involved in cross-strait exchanges, said Lai.

Lai was apparently referring to the ruling Kuomintang's dominant role in cross-strait relations. But President Ma Ying-jeou's China-friendly policies have failed to win much support from the people.

Lai said the DPP has the obligation to provide different voices to facilitate the making of cross-strait policies.

Lai's trip across the strait came as a surprise, as there had been no sign of him having such a plan until he announced it Thursday on the eve of his departure.

He said Taiwan and China should cooperate rather than confront, each other, and there must be mutual respect.

Fudan President Yang Yuliang, who was the moderator of the forum, agreed that more cross-strait exchanges will be needed to promote mutual understanding.

Jiang Yihua, a Taiwan expert at Fudan, noted that in the 1990s many China officials in charge of Taiwan policy had never been to Taiwan. He added that many Taiwan officials now in charge of cross-strait affairs have never been to China.

During the forum Jiang was also critical of the DPP's pro-independence stance.

Jiang disclosed that former President Chen Shui-bian had a representative carry a message to China during his first presidential campaign. The message was that he was willing to play a key role in breaking the cross-strait impasse at the time, according to Jiang.

But Jiang also cited Chen as admitting that the pro-independence clause in the DPP Charter would be a major obstacle.

Jiang told Lai that the DPP must “face” the pro-independence issue although he stopped short of asking outright that the party delete the pro-independence clause from its charter.

Lai responded by noting that the DPP already adopted a resolution in 1999 saying that any move concerning the future of Taiwan must be decided by all of its people.

“The DPP embraces the Taiwan independence cause, but it respects the decision by the people,” Lai said, stressing that this major consensus among the people enabled Chen's victory in the 2000 presidential race.

He argued that “freezing” the DPP independence clause would not solve the Taiwan independence issue.

“Did Taiwan see the rise of the DPP first, and then the independence advocacy later? Or did Taiwan see the rise of the independence advocacy first, and then the DPP later?” Lai asked.

The core issue must be understood before the pro-independence clause can be dealt with, he added.

He said Taiwan and China must now tolerate differences and let each other hear different voices

June 9, 2014    ryner@
Bravo! William Lai is an intelligent man and his remarks echo the sentiments of all Taiwanese people. The Chinese should pay attention instead of resorting to immature displays of nationalistic tantrums every time they hear the words "Taiwan independence".
June 10, 2014    Boogurtwang@
A rational and considered statement by Mayor Lai.

I look for him to leave the DPP soon.
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