Former Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou to visit China in landmark trip

Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou will visit China this month, his office said. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI - Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou will visit China this month, his office said on Sunday, the first time a former or current Taiwanese leader is making the trip since the defeated Republic of China government fled to the island in 1949.

The trip will be at a time of heightened tensions between Beijing and Taipei as China keeps up its military and political pressure to try and get democratically-elected Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty.

Mr Ma, who remains a senior member of Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT) opposition party, held a landmark meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore in late 2015, shortly before current Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was elected.

Mr Ma’s office said that he would visit China from March 27 to April 7, and go to the cities of Nanjing, Wuhan, Changsha, Chongqing and Shanghai.

He will meet students and visit sites connected to World War II and China’s conflict with Japan as well as those related to the 1911 revolution, which overthrew the last Chinese emperor and ushered in the Republic of China, his office said.

The Republic of China remains Taiwan’s official name.

It did not say if he would meet any Chinese officials or leaders, including whether he would meet Mr Xi.

The KMT, which traditionally favours close ties with China but strongly denies being pro-Beijing, has been stepping up its engagement with China since both China and Taiwan eased Covid 19-related travel restrictions.

Last month, the KMT’s deputy chairman Andrew Hsia visited Beijing and met senior Communist Party leader Wang Huning.

Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) seized on Mr Hsia’s China trip to attack the KMT for being too close to Beijing and wanting to sell out Taiwan, and criticised Mr Hsia for going to “pay court to the communists”.

The KMT says it is important to keep lines of communication open with China, especially given the current tensions.

China has rebuffed repeated calls from Dr Tsai for talks, believing her to be a separatist.

She says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future and rejects China’s sovereignty claims. REUTERS

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