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Tainan mayor urges for common ground between DPP, China

TAIPEI--Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te, a member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), called Sunday for setting aside differences in cross-strait ties in an effort to find common ground between Taiwan and China.

The independence-leaning DPP should not continue to focus on the differences between the two sides, said Lai, who returned late Saturday from a two-day trip to Shanghai, his first visit to China since being elected mayor of Taiwan's fifth most populous city in 2010.

If DPP members insist on focusing on tensions between the two sides, Lai told reporters at Tainan City Hall, the party could find it difficult to make headway in terms of cross-strait ties.

His comment was a reference to the contradiction between the DPP's stance that Taiwan is an independent country and Beijing's stance that the island is an inalienable part of China.

The remarks come after Lai attended a conference at Fudan University in Shanghai Saturday, in which he spoke of the DPP's advocacy of independence and explained that while the party's stance will not change, it will respect any decision made by the Taiwanese people regarding the future of Taiwan.

On Sunday, DPP spokesman Huang Di-ying called for Beijing, which fiercely opposes an independent Taiwan, to try to understand what he called the “real common opinion” among the Taiwanese people.

In the statement, Huang said that Lai's remarks that the DPP respects the will of the Taiwanese people are “nothing more than normal” in democratic Taiwan.

He also expressed the DPP's hope for better understanding between Taiwan and China to facilitate solving problems between them and create opportunities for the development of peace and stability between the two sides.

DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen made a statement on her Facebook page later in the day, saying that Lai's comments in Shanghai show the traces of the DPP's growth over time and contribute to mutual understanding between her party and China.

The DPP holds a proactive attitude toward exchanges with China, she said, and “we therefore welcome visits by Chinese officials for non-political purposes. We also hope for them to make more contact with a diversity of voices and opinions in Taiwan.”

Chen Chu, mayor of Kaohsiung and a heavyweight in the party, also gave support to Lai's move to present different voices in China than those of just the ruling Kuomintang.

Chen said that if China's top official in charge of Taiwan ties, Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun, visits Kaohsiung, she is interested in meeting him.

Tsai has also reportedly expressed interest in meeting with Zhang during his expected visit to Taiwan in the future.

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