Taiwan official in charge of China issues on charm offensive in Nanjing

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Minister Wang Yu-chi (front right) waves as he leaves after visiting the Sun Yat-sen mausoleum in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, February 12, 2014. Taiwan's official in charge of mainland affairs went on a charm offensive i
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Minister Wang Yu-chi (front right) waves as he leaves after visiting the Sun Yat-sen mausoleum in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, February 12, 2014. Taiwan's official in charge of mainland affairs went on a charm offensive in Nanjing on Wednesday, on Feb 12, 2014, extolling Taiwan's society and democratic system to an audience in Nanjing University. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Taiwan's official in charge of mainland affairs went on a charm offensive in Nanjing on Wednesday, extolling Taiwan's society and democratic system to an audience in Nanjing University.

Mr Wang Yu-chi spoke repeatedly of the deep warmth and "human compassion" that the Taiwanese people possess, urging mainland students to visit Taiwan and promising them that once they arrive, they "may never want to leave".

He also said that Taiwan's democracy is something that the island is proud of.

As the chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, he is under a lot of pressure from both the media and legislators.

"But this is the essence of democracy, and so officials are scrutinised. This is something we are proud of," he said.

To a student who expressed puzzlement at a protest last week in Taipei over textbook revisions referring to China as "mainland China" - a change that irked those who are pro-independence - Mr Wang stressed that Taiwan is a society with multiple voices, and that every voice will be heard and treated with respect.

"You may feel uneasy, but our people are used to a diversity of opinions. This is how we are in Taiwan."

Mr Wang, who is in Nanjing for the first official trip to China by a Taiwan government official, started his speech at the Nanjing University by recounting how he was part of a debate team against opponents from the university. The two teams met in Singapore in 1990, where they debated the motion: "Mankind co-existing in peace is an ideal that can be realised."

Back then, said Mr Wang, his team argued that this is not possible.

Now, 24 years on, "I am here to make sure we can find a way to make peace possible."

On Wednesday morning, Mr Wang visited the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum where the body of Dr Sun lies in repose.

Considered to be the Founding Father of Modern China, Dr Sun is the one political leader that is revered on both sides of the Taiwan Strait for his role in leading the revolution against the Qing Dynasty before establishing the Republic of China.

Bowing to his statue, Mr Wang - the first Taiwan official to visit in a government capacity - said that in the past, Taipei could only gaze upon the mausoleum from afar, but now he is able to represent Taiwan in paying respects in person.

Looking ahead, Mr Wang said that Taiwan and China have to take a pragmatic approach toward resolving problems to establish long-term stable cross-strait relations.

xueying@sph.com.sg

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