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Chen Chu to return home after Cuba denies entry

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, who was recently denied entry to Cuba, has decided to cut short a visit to the United States and return to Taiwan from Los Angeles, a city government spokesman said Thursday.

The mayor cut short her 11-day visit — originally slated for Feb. 15-26 — in the wake of the Cuban entry denial, said Zeno Lai, director of the Kaohsiung Information Bureau, adding that she is scheduled to arrive in Kaohsiung the following day.

Lai attributed Chen's denied entry to the fact that news of her itinerary was leaked to the press in advance.

Chen and a group of Kaohsiung city government officials flew to Cuba Feb. 20 to look at organic agriculture in the Caribbean country. All of the delegation members were allowed entry except for Chen.

Local media reported yesterday that the Kaohsiung mayor was stopped by Cuban Customs, which did not give a reason for denying her entry.

Also that day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that officials from the Republic of China Embassy in the Dominican Republic and Taiwan's representative office in Mexico helped Chen's delegation transit from Cuba to Los Angeles.

Chen, a bigwig of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and one of the party's founders, was chosen as acting DPP chairwoman Wednesday, temporarily succeeding Tsai Ing-wen, who will step down Feb. 29.

Chen will hold the reins of the DPP until a new leader and local chapter chiefs are elected May 27.

It was not immediately clear whether Chen — who was elected Kaohsiung mayor in 2006, becoming the country's first female mayor of a special municipality, and who was re-elected in 2010 — will seek to become the party's formal leader.

Born in Yilan County in eastern Taiwan in 1950, Chen began devoting herself to Taiwan's democracy movement in the 1970s when the country was a one-party state. She spent six years in jail during Taiwan's martial law period (which lasted until 1987) for participating in a pro-democracy demonstration in Kaohsiung in 1979.

Source Talks Chen on China

Meanwhile, a source close to the Kaohsiung mayor said Chen considers cross-strait dealings entirely inevitable.

Chen believes that as mainland China is a large nation, Taiwan has no way to avoid dealings, the source told local media under condition of anonymity.

Moreover, if Taiwan needs to become friends with "everyone," mainland China is no exception, the source continued.

As for whether Chen is developing plans to visit China, the source said that no plans are confirmed. Chen has, however, previously expressed a willingness to "go anywhere" if the trip is good for Kaohsiung or Taiwan at large.

If Chen were in China in her capacity as DPP chairwoman, the source expects that she would conduct herself with "discretion," completing full and careful considerations before any decision.

Asked if Chen is mulling a run for formal chairmanship, the source said that the mayor considers her municipality the greatest priority. So far, Chen has said nothing to suggest otherwise, said the source, who also denied that Chen and te outbound chairwoman are at odds over cross-strait relations.

Their views on cross-strait ties do not differ, but are quite similar, said the source.

On Wednesday, Tsai proposed that the DPP coordinate concrete interactions with mainland China, as a milder and more dynamic approach to cross-strait relations.

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