Former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) is set to embark on a symbolic yet controversial visit to China today for what has been described as an “ice breaking” trip to promote better relations between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and China.
“Hopefully, footprints I make today will become a trail for future travelers,” Hsieh said yesterday, referring to his five-day visit to Xiamen and Beijing.
Hsieh, who served as premier and DPP chairman, would be the highest-ranking DPP official to visit China, a country which has always held a hostile view toward the political party.
Hsieh and his delegation are scheduled to visit Xiamen, Fujian Province, where he is expected to pay tribute to his ancestors on Dongshan Island and visit Xiamen University, as well as Taiwanese businesses, today and tomorrow.
He is then to go to Beijing for an international bartending event — the main purpose of his trip — where he is to visit Beijing National Stadium, nicknamed “the Bird’s Nest,” as well as attending a closed-door meeting with academics from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences before returning to Taiwan on Monday.
The former premier stressed that he would visit China in his private capacity as chairman of the Taiwan Reform Foundation and that there would be “no public political events” in his itinerary so “people should look at this as an ordinary trip.”
However, Hsieh was well aware of the symbolic and political meaning of the trip — which originated after he was invited by the the International Bartenders’ Association to attend a bartending competition — and what prompted him to describe the trip as “a new page of sharing and mutual trust.”
Hsieh did not disclose whether he would meet with any Chinese official during the visit.
Most DPP members, including DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and former chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), wished Hsieh luck on the trip, saying the visit could be a positive first step en route to a better DPP-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) relationship in the future, which has been widely seen as an important factor for the DPP to win people’s trust in its capability to deal with cross-strait relations after its defeat in the January presidential election.
DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said yesterday after the party’s weekly Central Standing Committee meeting that people should not place “political responsibilities” on Hsieh’s shoulder, given that it is a private visit.
However, pro-independence groups expressed concerns toward the visit yesterday as the visit could be interpreted as Taiwan’s collaboration with China for a coalition against Japan on the dispute over Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台).
The visit will be a trip of high political implication and Hsieh, as well as lawmakers and elected officials in the delegation, should never jeopardize Taiwanese sovereignty in their exchanges with the Chinese, the Taiwan Friends Association said in a press release yesterday.
World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) Chairman Chen Nan-tien (陳南天) expressed WUFI’s opposition to the trip in a press release on Tuesday night, saying that despite it officially not opposing the visit, the timing is not right for such a visit.