KMT leader in China for key visit amid cross-strait chill

Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), chairman Hung Hsiu-chu arrives at the airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan, for her first trip to China, where she is expected to meet China's President Xi Jinping, on Oct 30, 2016.
Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), chairman Hung Hsiu-chu arrives at the airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan, for her first trip to China, where she is expected to meet China's President Xi Jinping, on Oct 30, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI • The leader of Taiwan's main opposition party arrived in China yesterday for a high-level visit that includes a meeting with President Xi Jinping.

The trip has taken on greater significance in the absence of official exchanges between Beijing and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government, according to Taiwanese media.

China announced in June that it had suspended the cross-strait communication mechanism because President Tsai Ing-wen of DPP failed to endorse the 1992 Consensus - a tacit agreement between the two sides that there is one China - which Beijing has set as the bottom line for continuing cross-strait exchanges.

Ahead of this week's visit, a Kuomintang (KMT) spokesman said its chairman Hung Hsiu-chu will make only "measured and appropriate" statements during the trip, reported Central News Agency.

This came following reports of disagreement between Ms Hung and former president Ma Ying-jeou over how she should phrase the party's stance on the 1992 Consensus when meeting Mr Xi.

The KMT's seven-member delegation will visit Dr Sun Yat Sen's mausoleum in Nanjing today. Tomorrow, Ms Hung will meet Mr Xi, who is general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), at the Great Hall of the People.

It will be followed by the two-day Cross-strait Peace Development Forum - the new title for the annual meeting between the CCP and the KMT since 2006 - that opens on Nov 2.

The cross-strait forum has been held 10 times since 2006 and has become an important platform for interaction and dialogue between the two parties.

Professor Yang Kai-huang of the Graduate Institute of East Asian Studies at Taiwan's National Cheng-Chi University, told Voice of America that the forum offers a good opportunity to break the ice amid the current stalemate in cross-strait relations.

Political analysts say the visit is also a chance for KMT, which lost its parliamentary majority in the January elections, to boost morale and revive its fortunes.

The party suffered another blow over the weekend when Taiwan's Constitutional Court threw out its second request for a constitutional review of a law on political party assets, reported the Central News Agency.

The party assets law, which took effect in August, empowers a committee to investigate, retroactively confiscate and return or restore to the rightful owners all assets obtained by the KMT and its affiliated organisations since Aug 15, 1945.

Last month, the KMT's main bank account was frozen by request of the committee, forcing the party to delay paying its employees their salaries for September.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2016, with the headline 'KMT leader in China for key visit amid cross-strait chill'. Print Edition | Subscribe