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Lien, Soong Visits Highlight Bonds Across Straits

Mainland visits by two prominent statesmen from Taiwan have shed light on the kindredship and a host of other close links across the Taiwan Strait, things about which many outsiders weren't clear before.

In fact, Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan, People First Party (PFP) Chairman James CY Soong and people with roots on the mainland are not in the minority in Taiwan.

Statistics of both sides show nearly 98 percent of the 23 million Taiwan residents are descendants of Chinese mainlanders that moved to the island province in various periods, mainly at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Separated from the mainland by the 150-km Taiwan Strait, Taiwan has been a part of the Chinese territory since ancient times. Links and contacts between the island and the Chinese mainland were normal until the late 1940s, when the former ruling Kuomintang Party (KMT) lost a civil war to the Communist Party of China troops and retreated to Taiwan.

Relations with the China mainland began to thaw towards the end of KMT rule of Taiwan, when the two sides reached a consensus in 1992 that accepts the "one-China" principle, paving way for further talks. The relations got tense, however, as Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui and successive leader Chen Shui-bian began to advocate "one country on each side" and "Taiwan independence".

In addition to having the same ancestry, people along the Taiwan Straits speak the same language and share the same cultural and historical background. Economic exchanges between the two sides have boomed in recent years.

Statistics show that Taiwan business people have made investments in more than 60,000 projects on the mainland, with contractual investment hitting almost 80 billion US dollars and 40billion dollars being actually used.

Indirect trade volume between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan amounted to more than 400 billion US dollars, of which Taiwan has obtained an accumulated trade surplus of 270 billions dollars. In 2004 alone, the trade volume across the Straits reached more than 78 billion dollars.

As James CY Soong landed on the soil of his mainland hometown in Hunan Sunday afternoon after an absence of 56 years, the 63-year-old statesman said he had "poignant feelings" at that moment.

"I escorted the coffin of my grandmother to Hunan 56 years ago, as a little boy. And I haven't returned to see my kinfolk since, yet I have never stopped missing you," Soong said in a brief speech at the airport using the Hunanese dialect.

Speaking earlier during his tour of Xi'an, the first leg of his nine-day mainland visit, Soong described his on-going visit as "a trip of seeking the same roots of the Chinese people and building a bridge across the Straits for the future."

"Although Taiwan is only some 100 kilometers away from the mainland, it took me more than 50 years to cross the Straits and set foot on the mainland soil," he said emotionally.

On numerous occasions during his mainland visit, Soong said "descendants of Cathay (the old name of China) should never forget their roots and that brothers on both sides of the Taiwan Straits are of one family."

There is no doubt the natural attachment to the homeland is shared by many people in Taiwan today, and appreciated by the majority of the people in the world. The overwhelmingly positive response to Lien and Soong's mainland visits in Taiwan, on the mainland and in the world over are substantial proof of that.

It's odd that the current authorities of Taiwan, a Chinese territory, are using every possible means to stifle these links even as the mainland side has shown its willingness to shelve the past strife and seek reunification.

Using their executive power, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its limited allies have been straining every nerve to wipe out the Chinese identity from the Taiwan people, slandering every showing of affinity to the mainland as "betraying Taiwan". Yet over half of Taiwan people, represented by the KMT, the PFP and the Pan-Blue alliance as a whole, still openly oppose "Taiwan independence" and see themselves as Chinese.

A lot more people will come out if the freewheeling allegations, which have got the name of "green terror" as they are mostly hurled by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with green symbols, are held in check.

Even before Lien and Soong's mainland trips, made at the risk of being labeled as betrayals, there have been increasing signs that the pro-reunification ranks are swelling.

A once staunch supporter of a policy of "pro-independence," and Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian has changed his ground. In a letter published in Taiwan's major newspapers in late March, Hsu Wen-lung, founder of Taiwan's Chimei Group and an advisor to Chen Shui-bian, said his ancestors came from China's southern Fujian province and "I believe both Taiwan and the mainland belong to one China" and "people are both sides of the Taiwan Straits are brothers and sisters."

Sensible politicians should not miss these signs and act accordingly, in the people's best interest.

(Xinhua News Agency May 9, 2005)

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