An annual festival featuring Beijing culture that had been held in Kaohsiung for the past five years is to be held in New Taipei City this year, with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suggesting that the move might have been politically motivated.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) on Wednesday confirmed that, following an invitation from New Taipei City, the event would be held in Tamsui District (淡水) at about the time of the Lantern Festival, which falls on Feb. 11 this year.
The host city was picked in the second half of last year, Ma said in a statement, which was released in response to media queries about whether Beijing wants to avoid holding activities in pan-green camp municipalities.
Ma sidestepped the question, saying that the site for this year’s Beijing Week was decided by the “relevant side” in Beijing and the event’s organizer in Taiwan.
The festival is “not limited to a certain city or county,” he added.
All Taiwanese are welcome to attend the festival, where they can experience Beijing’s “special culture,” he said.
The New Taipei City Government also confirmed that the event would be held in Tamsui, but added it did not play a role in changing the event’s location.
Civic groups that were in contact with the Chinese side made the arrangements, the city government said.
Beijing Week had been held in Kaohsiung since 2012 at about the same time as the Lantern Festival, a part of Lunar New Year festivities.
The first day of the Year of the Rooster falls on Jan. 28 and the Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month, is to be celebrated from Feb. 11 to Feb. 19.
The dates for Beijing Week have yet to be released.
The change of venue sparked speculation that political considerations were involved in the decision.
DPP Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟), who represents a district in Kaohsiung, was quoted in the Chinese-language United Daily News as saying that he hopes the change was not the result of a visit to China in September last year by the heads or deputy heads of eight municipalities run by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), including the deputy mayor of New Taipei City, and independents.
The delegation had appealed to Beijing to continue sending tourists to their municipalities even as it curtailed the number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May last year.
Tsai’s refusal to heed Beijing’s calls to recognize the so-called “1992 consensus” as the political foundation for cross-strait exchanges has caused Beijing to freeze cross-strait dialogue, while increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on Taipei.
The “1992 consensus” refers to a tacit understanding between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge that there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means. Former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) said in 2006 that he had made up the term in 2000.
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