Official: Taiwan's choices respected

Updated: 2014-06-28 05:12

By AN BAIJIE (China Daily)

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Official: Taiwan's choices respected

Zhang Zhijun (left), director of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, receives a hat as a gift from Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu during their meeting in Taiwan's southern city of Kaohsiung on Friday. [Photo/Agencies]

Mainland authorities are respectful of the Taiwan people's choice of social system and lifestyle, said the mainland's chief official on Taiwan affairs.

The mainland and Taiwan have evolved with different social systems, values, thoughts and lifestyles after decades of development, and mainland authorities respect those differences, said Zhang Zhijun, director of State Council Taiwan Affairs Office.

Zhang made the remarks during a meeting with Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu in Taiwan on Friday morning.

"We welcome people from all walks of life in Taiwan, no matter what their regions, parties or religions are, to jointly promote the peaceful development of cross-Straits ties," he said.

Even though there remain some challenges and problems, the relationship between the mainland and Taiwan has improved in recent decades, which has benefited people from both sides, he said.

The two officials discussed practical issues, such as opening more air routes across the Straits, giving farmers and fishermen more benefits from cross-Straits exchanges and improving the quality of the tourism industry.

"We need to hear the opinions of different people, including the grassroots of southern Taiwan, to ensure that more people will enjoy the bonus of peaceful development of cross-Straits ties," Zhang said.

He acknowledged that geographical distance is not the sole hurdle. Psychological gaps also exist and should be addressed by more communication, he said.

The meeting was scheduled to last 30 minutes. However, the two officials talked for well over an hour.

Chen told reporters after the meeting that she did not talk about the "pro-independence" principle of the Democratic Progressive Party even though she is a DPP member.

Zhang visited a village that was destroyed by a hurricane in 2009, offering condolences for the 462 victims of the disaster and extending his best wishes to the villagers.

At the village, Zhang read a letter written by a pupil who survived the Wenchuan earthquake of May 2008 that left more than 80,000 people missing or dead in Sichuan province.

In the letter, the child expressed gratitude to rescuers from Taiwan who helped people to rebuild their homes and lives during the hard times after the quake.

People from the mainland and in Taiwan share bonds as well as a certain sadness because "we are of the same family", Zhang said.

On Friday afternoon, Zhang visited a greenhouse and tasted the fruit. He then went to the Buddhist organization Fo Guang Shan to meet its founder, Master Hsing Yun.

Zhang kicked off his four-day trip to Taiwan on Wednesday. It's the first time that a director of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office has visited the island since 1949.

Chen Xiancai, professor of cross-Straits research at Xiamen University, said that by visiting ordinary people at the grassroots level, Zhang has extended genuine friendship to the Taiwan people, which is important to boost ties across the Straits.

Even though mainland authorities have criticized the DPP many times because of its political stance, Zhang nevertheless met DPP member Chen, the Kaohsiung mayor, to show the mainland authorities' confidence in addressing the tough issues, he said.