Taiwanese opposition leader not ruling out summit with Xi

Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen giving a speech before their central standing committee in Taipei, on Nov 4, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS
Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen giving a speech before their central standing committee in Taipei, on Nov 4, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS
The Straits Times' foreign editor Audrey Quek discusses with digital news editor Ernest Luis the importance of the historic meeting that is set to take place in Singapore on Nov 7 between China President Xi Jinping and Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou.

Response comes as surveys show majority of Taiwanese approve of Ma Ying-jeou's meeting with Chinese leader

Taiwanese opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen, the front runner in the island's January presidential poll, has said she will not rule out meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping if elected, provided some conditions are met.

Her response came as opinion surveys showed the majority of Taiwanese approving of the summit in Singapore today between Mr Xi and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who is from the China-friendly ruling Kuomintang.

Ms Tsai, who heads the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), also responded to Mr Ma's remarks on Thursday at a press conference on the summit that he was building a bridge for future exchanges between leaders of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

"Exchanges between leaders of the two sides are highly sensitive... Without a complete structure, such a bridge will not be a very stable one," she was quoted by Taiwanese media as saying on Thursday.

Such a structure would consist of "democratic procedure, transparency in the flow of information and monitoring by the legislature".

The three principles on which a meeting can take place would be: parity of the leaders, transparency and no political pre-conditions.

She also slammed as "opaque" the policymaking process of Mr Ma's administration, saying it led to "misgiving and mistrust" among Taiwanese towards the government.

Ms Tsai had earlier criticised the haste with which the summit was announced - just four days before it was due to take place - saying it damaged Taiwan's democracy.

DPP caucus leader Ker Chien-ming had said late on Tuesday, when the announcement was made, that such a summit was "not acceptable" to the Taiwanese, given that the "lame-duck" Mr Ma has just six months of his term to go and has no mandate to discuss issues.

However, as the majority of Taiwanese reacted positively to the Xi-Ma meeting, the opposition party appears to have toned down its rhetoric.

DPP secretary-general Joseph Wu said on Thursday in a radio interview that the party has no objection to the normalisation of meetings between leaders of the two sides, but stressed that the process must be transparent.

He added that the party would not initiate any protest, or take to the streets, or organise a protest at the venue of the meeting in Singapore.

Separately, the DPP publicised its own carefully worded survey yesterday, which showed that 66.8 per cent of Taiwanese polled agreed that Mr Ma should not make any major cross-strait policy announcement at the summit and that 65.9 per cent did not trust Mr Ma's ability to deal with cross-strait ties.

The DPP survey also showed that 74 per cent thought that on such an important issue as a summit between leaders of the two sides, Mr Ma should have first communicated with the legislature and opposition parties and obtained consensus within Taiwan.

Unlike the DPP, other pro-independence parties have been less coy, with a legislator from the Taiwan Solidarity Union accusing Mr Ma of "selling out Taiwan".

Pro-independence activists have staged protests in front of the Legislative Yuan since the summit came to light, and four young men will travel to Singapore today to protest against the summit.

Taiwan's Central News Agency said the four, who are self-funded, will hand over a document to the Taipei Representative Office in Singapore, stating that Mr Ma no longer has the legitimacy to represent Taiwanese.

"Whatever promise, consensus or discussion that President Ma makes at the summit will have no restriction on the people of Taiwan or whichever authorities that replace the current one," they were quoted by the news agency as saying.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2015, with the headline 'Taiwanese opposition leader not ruling out summit with Xi'. Print Edition | Subscribe