Former leader lauds Beijing relations

Updated: 2016-06-16 07:50

By Luis Liuin Hong Kong(China Daily USA)

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Former Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou hailed his November meeting with President Xi Jinping in Singapore as a historic breakthrough in building "a bridge of peace" across the Taiwan Straits and expressed hope that people from both sides would seek "in-depth mutual understanding".

He made the remarks in a pre-recorded speech presented on Wednesday at the awards presentation dinner of the Society of Publishers in Asia. The event was held in Hong Kong.

It was Ma's first public speech after leaving office on May 20. His Kuomintang party lost the election to Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party.

Ma said the Chinese mainland and Taiwan had built up considerable mutual trust before the meeting with Xi, and he pointed to the 1992 Consensus, which recognizes "one China" and respects "respective interpretations" as the foundation of cross-Straits peace and maintaining the status quo. Any interpretation - "two Chinas", "one China, one Taiwan" or "Taiwan independence" - are prohibited under Taiwan's governing document, Ma said.

After the Xi-Ma meeting, Taiwan opinion polls found that more than 60 percent of Taiwan people supported Ma's interpretation of the consensus, a higher level of support than in the past.

Since he was sworn into office in 2008, 23 major agreements have been signed by Taiwan and the mainland; high-ranking officials in charge of cross-Straits affairs from both sides met several times; and the number of scheduled cross-Straits flights rose from zero to 890 per week. More than 4 million mainland tourists traveled to Taiwan last year, showing a 14-fold increase. Cross-Straits tension decreased significantly, Ma said.

Ma said each side has unique characteristics and values. He appealed to people from both sides to seek in-depth mutual understanding and cultural empathy.

He used the 42,000 mainland students living in Taiwan as an example. Students study, debate, exercise and play with their Taiwan schoolmates, Ma said, which helps create a solid foundation for sustainable peace and prosperity.

Ma had meant to deliver the speech in person at the publishers' dinner in response to the group's invitation, but Taiwan authorities rejected his request to go to Hong Kong.

The spokesman for the office of current Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen cited several reasons: the fact that Ma had only recently left office, that the request was made on short notice, that Hong Kong was sensitive and that security cooperation with the city was lacking.

Ma's office expressed regret over the decision. A spokeswoman said it showed "not only disrespect to the former leader but damages Taiwan's democratic image in the world".

Former leader lauds Beijing relations

(China Daily USA 06/16/2016 page4)