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September 21, 2017

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Soong expected to meet Xi in mainland

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) yesterday departed for mainland China and is expected meet Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping(習近平) during his visit.

Before boarding his flight, Soong said that he would like to help ensure peace across the Taiwan Strait, and that he is deeply concerned about the rift in Taiwan.

The chairman added that his visit is not intended as a campaign event either for himself or his party.

  Sources within the PFP said that the visit marks Soong's "comeback," and that an official press conference will be held once Soong and his delegation returns to talk about the outcome of the visit as well as the future of the PFP.

PFP Secretary-General Chin Chin-sheng (秦金生), Deputy Secretary-General Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄), Legislators Thomas Lee (李桐豪) and Chen Yi-jie (陳怡潔) are a part of the delegation.

Sources said that the only confirmed item on Soong's itinerary is a book launch at Peking University.

According to local reports, Soong will be meeting with Xi in the afternoon on Wednesday, and that the PFP chairman will also meet Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍).

During his meeting with the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) Chairman Chen Deming (陳德銘) in December last year, Soong said that ARATS should listen more to the Taiwanese people and take the interests of Taiwan's small and medium enterprises into consideration.

ARATS is a quasi-official agency that conducts cross-strait affairs on behalf of the TAO. Its Taipei-based counterpart is the Straits Exchange Foundation.

Given that Soong's visit comes not long after the protests against the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, media attention will be focused on whether or not the PFP chairman and the CCP chairman will touch upon the progress of cross-strait ties in depth.

PFP sources said that Soong has been in "hibernation" for some time, and that his visit to mainland China can be interpreted as a political "comeback."

Soong is slated to return on Friday, May 9 and hold a press conference at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

Soong Not Seeking Office in 7-In-1 Poll: Source

With regard to the upcoming seven-in-one local elections at year-end, PFP sources said that the party had drafted a list of nominees; however, Soong was not satisfied with the list, and a second wave of nominees was subsequently slated to be revealed at the end of April, but that was put on hold because of the Sunflower Movement.

The PFP will conduct its second round of nominations once Soong returns, sources said, adding, however, that the PFP will not nominate candidates to run for magistrates or mayors, which means that Soong will not run for office.

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