Five-day 'private trip' aims to build 'mutual trust' across Taiwan Straits
Taiwan opposition party heavyweight Frank Hsieh arrived in Xiamen, Fujian province, on Thursday for a five-day trip which makes him the most senior politician ever from the island's pro-independence opposition party to visit the mainland.
The visit, described by Taiwan media as "ice-breaking", came amid debate in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) about whether to change its mainland policy.
He told reporters at the airport in Taipei before his departure that he hoped to prove that the DPP is capable of handling cross-Straits relations and solving problems for Taiwan business people based in the mainland.
Hsieh served as "prime minister" from 2005 to 2006 and retains major influence in the DPP. He was the party's "presidential" candidate in the 2008 elections but lost to Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang party.
Hsieh had earlier said that the purpose of his trip was to "build mutual trust", although he will only meet mainland academics during the "private" visit.
Xiamen was his first stop, to be followed by a visit to nearby Dongshan Island, where his ancestors lived before emigrating to Taiwan.
Later, the trip will take him to Beijing, where he plans to visit the Olympic Stadium and attend an international cocktail contest as a guest of the International Bartenders Association.
Leading DPP members have debated whether their party needs to change its mainland policy, after voters re-elected Ma in January for a second and final four-year term.
Cross-Straits tensions soared in the eight years to 2008, when the DPP ruled Taiwan, but have eased markedly since Ma took office four years ago.
The DPP has been unable to articulate a coherent policy for dealing with the mainland.
Ma argued successfully that his commitment to lowering tensions with the mainland by increasing commercial links is the best recipe for cross-Straits stability.