TAIPEI (CNA) — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) continued on March 25 their rhetorical campaign against popular Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) for meeting with top Chinese officials during a visit to Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Xiamen.
Tsai, who was in Nauru on a state visit Monday, called on Han to stand up for the Republic of China’s sovereignty as he was preparing to meet the director of Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Liu Jieyi (劉結一), in Shenzhen.
In a post on her Facebook page, Tsai said she remembered Han voiced strong support for the ROC during his election campaign last year and said it was a good time for him to tell China that the ROC (Taiwan) is a sovereign and independent nation and ask it to stop its suppression of Taiwan’s international participation.
“This is the aim of our visit,” she said, referring to her trip to three Pacific allies.
During Tsai’s visit Monday, the Nauru Parliament passed a resolution rejecting Beijing’s “one China principle” and “one country, two systems” framework and recognizing Taiwan as a sovereign and independent nation.
Tsai said Taiwan is in a difficult position internationally, and various levels of overseas visits, including state visits by the president or city-to-city exchanges by local heads, can help Taiwan make friends with other countries and promote diplomacy.
Approaches to making friends with foreign countries include soliciting investment, engaging in cooperation in agriculture, and health care, participating in NGO projects and promoting digital diplomacy, Tsai contended.
Han, a member of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), is on a seven-day tour of Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Xiamen that began Friday.
He was bashed by the DPP for entering the Chinese government’s liaison offices in Hong Kong and Macau on Friday and Saturday, respectively, because the offices are considered as a symbol of China’s imposition of the “one country, two systems” formula in those territories.
Han said his meeting with Liu would simply be a friendly exchange, and he would “thank Director Liu for his concern for Taiwanese compatriots.” He also reiterated that the goal of his trip was to sell agricultural and aquaculture products from Kaohsiung, something he said the DPP has not been able to do.
Earlier in the day, Han signed a contract with a company in Shenzhen committing it to buy agricultural products from the city worth 200 million Chinese yuan (NT$918.72 million).
The government kept the pressure on Monday, with the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan’s top agency in charge of China policy, saying it will ask the Kaohsiung government to submit a report to the Ministry of the Interior on Han’s visit within one month after his return to Taiwan.
MAC spokesperson Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) said city and county heads are required to apply to visit China but applications are not required for visiting Hong Kong and Macau.
Applications are required, however, for any overseas visits involving negotiations on issues related to politics and public power as well as China-related issues as stipulated in the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area.
If any deals reached between Han and Chinese individuals or organizations violate the law, he will be subject to a fine of NT$100,000 to NT$500,000. Chiu did not, however, reference any behavior by Han that may have violated the statute.
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) again panned Han for his meeting on Friday with Wang Zhimin (王志民), director of the Chinese Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (LOCPG HK).
She said Taiwan was in the dark about the meeting because it was not included in the itinerary of Han’s seven-day tour put out by his office prior to the trip, and reiterated the interpretation of the encounter as Han’s endorsement of Beijing’s “one country, two systems” framework.
Kuan said the vast majority of Taiwan’s people do not accept the “one country, two systems” formula, implying that they do not think Han should have set foot in a liaison office responsible for the system in Hong Kong.
The DPP has been extremely critical of the popular Kaohsiung mayor, who would be the opposition Kuomintang’s most popular presidential candidate and defeat any DPP candidate should he decide to run for the presidency in 2020, according to recent opinion polls.
The party has also made criticism of the “one country, two systems” formula a key plank in efforts to revive its sagging ratings since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) described the formula in a January speech as “the best approach to realizing national reunification.”
KMT Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) backed Han’s visit, saying it was to help boost Taiwan’s economy and secure orders for local farmers.
He questioned why the heads of cities and counties ruled by the DPP were credited for selling agricultural products to China and conducting city-to-city exchanges with China in the past but Han was slammed as selling out Taiwan while doing the same thing.
By Wang Yang-yu, Chen Chun-hua, Tsai Peng-min, Stanley Cheung and Evelyn Kao