NEWS > Taiwan/HK
Outspoken Taiwanese critic to visit Beijing
2005-09-19 04:05:08 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Lee Ao (L) arrives at the Taoyuan Airport in Taiwan Monday, beginning his 12-day visit to the Chinese mainland, Sept 19, 2005. (Photo/cnsphoto)

TAIPEI, Sept 19 (AP) -- Lee Ao, an outspoken Taiwanese TV host and lawmaker who favors uniting the island with rival China, planned Monday to begin his first visit to the mainland since his family fled the communist revolution in 1949.

Lee's political talk shows are popular in Taiwan and China, which has attempted to woo Taiwanese political figures who favor eventual unification with the mainland.

The two sides split during a civil war in 1949 and Beijing regards the island as part of its territory, threatening to take it by force if Taipei formally splits from its giant neighbor.

Lee, on a 12-day visit, will speak to students at the prestigious Peking University on Wednesday and meet alumni of his former primary school in Beijing, his aides said.

Waving his new passport before departing Monday, Lee said he was eager to make his first trip abroad since fleeing Taiwan with Gen. Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists following their defeat by the Communists.

"At first the Nationalists barred visits to China," he said. "Later, I made it a habit not to go abroad."

Lee, 70, maintained he was not driven by nostalgia for the old China he lived through, but by an urge "to see the new China."

The Nationalists lifted the ban on visits to China in 1987. Now more than 1 million Taiwanese visit the mainland each year under booming trade and cultural ties despite lingering political tensions.

Lee shares China's goal of eventual unification with the island of 23 million people, and his biting criticism of Taiwan's independence-leaning government has made him a popular figure on the mainland.

Lien Chan and James Soong, opposition leaders who also favor unification, made visits to China earlier this year and were given lavish receptions.

But in an interview with Taiwan's China Times newspaper, Lee said Beijing should withdraw its constant threat to invade the island to help bring about unification.

"They talk about fighting Taiwan all the time, what does this mean?" he asked. "You can't resolve the Taiwan question this way. Both sides need time."

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