TAIPEI (DPA) — More exchanges should take place between mainland China and people from Taiwan's diverse backgrounds, Beijing's top official on Taiwan affairs said Friday, on the third day of his first visit to the island.
"To seek mutual benefits, we will promote more exchanges with Taiwanese people with diverse local, political, and religious background," Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Minister Zhang Zhijun said.
His comments come after many Taiwanese have expressed frustration that their concerns were not being taken into account in Taipei's rapprochement with the mainland government since President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008.
Zhang was speaking while visiting the more rural south of the island, where such resistance is strongest, after meeting his counterpart in a suburb of the capital this week.
Zhang said he now understood that the Taiwanese people treasure their current social systems, values and lifestyle, which are different from the people across the Taiwan Strait.
"In addition to the geological distance, we know there's cultural distance as well," Zhang said to reporters in the island's second-largest city of Kaohsiung, following a meeting with Mayor Chen Chu.
Chen, a member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said she told Zhang that the Taiwanese perspective deserves more understanding and respect.
"I clearly told Zhang that neither the people nor the government in Taiwan agree with TAO's remarks in early June," Chen said.
TAO spokeswoman Fan Liqing said on June 11 that Taiwan's future must be decided by all Chinese people, not just by Taiwan residents.
Zhang's arrival at Kaohsiung train station sparked the largest protests to date. Some displayed banners to welcome him but more booed and threw plastic bottles.
On a tour of an amusement park on reclaimed wetland, demonstrators shouted "One country on each side," referring to each side of the Taiwan Strait, and "Taiwan's future should be decided by Taiwanese people."
Others showed him football-style red cards, the Apple Daily reported.
Zhang was to return to Beijing on Saturday.