The former speaker of Taiwan’s legislature Wang Jin-pyng will lead a delegation to attend an annual cross-strait forum, challenging a ban imposed by the island’s government on the event, which it sees as a united-front ploy aimed at wooing Taiwanese.
Wang, who risks being charged with colluding with the Chinese Communists in plotting against Taiwan, will attend the 12th Strait Forum in the mainland city of Xiamen in southeastern Fujian province. The forum is expected to begin on September 19.
In a statement released by the main opposition Kuomintang on Tuesday, the party said KMT chairman Johnny Chiang had appointed Wang as head of the delegation and KMT secretary general Lee Chien-lung would serve as deputy head of the group.
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The KMT said it was necessary for the party to send an influential and experienced person such as Wang to convey the concerns of Taiwanese people about the cross-strait situation.
“Since the Democratic Progressive Party took power in 2016, cross-strait relations have turned sour every day and in the past half-year … the two sides have become more and more hostile to each other … and any misunderstanding or misjudgment could spark a war,” the KMT said.
With the People’s Liberation Army and US forces increasing their activities near the Taiwan Strait, cross-strait tensions have escalated further, the party said, adding that such tensions put Taiwan and its people at risk.
Beijing – which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory subject to eventual union, by force if necessary – has suspended formal exchanges with Taiwan since Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning DPP was elected president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle.
Wang, a veteran KMT member, said he had already accepted the party’s invitation to lead the delegation to show that the two sides should try to calm the situation.
“Since there have been no official exchanges between the two sides for a long while, events like this could help promote mutual understanding and ease the tensions, thereby ensuring peace across the Taiwan Strait,” Wang told reporters on Tuesday.
According to Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, the forum will include more than 30 business, educational, youth exchange and other events to be held in Xiamen and other cities in Fujian province. He said in addition to the KMT, other mainland-friendly parties such as the New Party and the People First Party would send delegations to the forum, part of which would be held via videoconference because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Wang said he planned to go to Xiamen on September 16 and would spend two days in the city for quarantine as agreed by the mainland authorities. He planned to return on or around September 21 followed by two weeks of government-required quarantine back in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, the island’s top mainland policy body has warned individuals and political groups in Taiwan against attending the forum. It said the event was soliciting Taiwanese support for President Xi Jinping’s proposal for the two sides to hold reunification talks under the “one country, two systems” model applied in Hong Kong.
Anyone going to the forum – government and military officials in particular – risked violating five national security laws, including anti-infiltration and anti-espionage legislation, the council warned last week when details of the Fujian-hosted forum came to light.
Wang Kung-yi, chairman of the Taiwan International Strategic Study Society, said the forum was first held in 2009 and the Mainland Affairs Council had never banned people from attending the event over the past four years.
“The reason it [will ban delegates] this time is that the pro-US Tsai government – which needs support from the US to counter Beijing – is following the Trump administration’s recent containment policy towards the mainland,” he said, referring to the various US bans on Chinese products and personnel.
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