ARATS chief optimistic about cross-strait future

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — China’s top negotiator with Taiwan expressed optimism about cross-strait relations as he continued a round-the-island visit yesterday. ��Having climbed the tower, I feel there will be a bright future for both sides of the strait,�� the China negotiator, Chen Deming (���w��), philosophized after enjoying a spectacular view of the sea on top of the island’s southernmost lighthouse at Eluanbi. Chen, chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), arrived on Dec. 9 for an eight-day high-profile visit, only less than two weeks since the China-friendly ruling Kuomintang (KMT) was crushed in local elections. Chen did not elaborate on his ��bright future�� remarks, keeping the press and observers guessing as to how Beijing will tackle cross-strait ties in the wake of the KMT defeat.

Chen and other delegates from ARATS arrived at the tropical Kenting in the south of Taiwan in the afternoon after spending the previous day in the eastern county of Taitung.

Their itinerary over the past few days has been mostly sightseeing and visiting local communities.

They visited some of the popular spots at Kenting, which Chen described as one of the ��most gorgeous pearls�� of Taiwan as far as scenery is concerned. ��Every scenic spot in Taiwan is like a pearl … I will string these pearls into a necklace and recommend them to the mainland Chinese people when I get back home,�� said Chen, in response to questions about his favorite spot of Taiwan. Earlier in the day, Chen visited a community of indigenous people at Chinfeng Village, Taitung.

The community now lives in government-built housing at Chinfeng after their original homes were damaged during Typhoon Morakot five years ago. Chen said Taiwan has been doing a great job helping indigenous peoples stay together although the sizes of aboriginal tribes have been shrinking. He said China faces similar issues, saying the two sides of the strait can share their experiences in handling minorities. Chen will be headed to Tainan today to meet with Buddhist Master Cheng Yen (���Y�k�v), whom the ARATS chief failed to see while in the eastern county of Hualien, the location of the headquarters of the Cheng Yen-founded Tzu Chi Foundation. The Buddhist master lives in Hualien. Chen will then return to Taipei in the afternoon and visit a nursing home, according to his itinerary. The Central News Agency said Chen will dine with businesspeople from both sides of the strait in the evening, but organizers of the event declined to reveal details.