The Chinese mainland's Taiwan affairs chief, Zhang Zhijun, on Friday expressed his hopes for more communication with local people and to hear their advice on cross-Strait cooperation.
Zhang, chief of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, made the remarks while meeting with Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu. They exchanged views on deepening cooperation between Kaohsiung and mainland cities.
Zhang said that with the development of cross-Strait relations in recent years, many cities on the island, including Kaohsiung, have carried out active communication with mainland cities. Last year, around eight million people from both sides traveled across the Strait.
"The mainland welcomes all regions, parties and religions from Taiwan, to take part in the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, and create more benefit for both sides, as more cross-Strait communications will help to close the mentality gap," Zhang told journalists after meeting Chen.
He said the mainland and Taiwan share common historical memories, while different perceptions lead to diverse social systems, values and life styles.
"As the mainland knows that Taiwanese people cherish the social system and lifestyle chosen by their own, it respects the way that Taiwanese people chose," Zhang said.
Although challenges and difficulties still remain, in the 65 years of cross-Strait development, it is noticeable that mainstream public opinion supports the development of cross-Strait relations.
Zhang said that more efforts are needed to hear Taiwanese people's advice, including that from ordinary people in the south of the island.
During the meeting, Chen briefed Zhang on Kaohsiung's construction and administration.
They exchanged views on cross-Strait relations and cooperation between cities of the two sides, including convenient and economical direct flights, benefits that can be achieved from cross-Strait communication by farmers and fishermen, and tourism.
At a symposium with master Hsing Yun, founder of the island's influential Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Zhang said that "the visit was a commitment which enables him to feel the deep love of being one family."
"I would like to pray for a better future for cross-Strait development," added Zhang, while exchanging gifts with master Hsing Yun.
COMMUNICATION WITH ORDINARY PEOPLE
He arrived at Kaohsiung's high-speed train station in the early morning, being welcomed by local people and organizations, who held scrolls and chanted the slogans "mutual visits create harmony" and "both sides are of one family, welcome."
Shen Chih-hui, chairwoman of the Taiwan-based Chinese Culture Communication Association, also appeared at the station with nearly 100 association members.
Hsing I-yi led a team composed of more than 60 people from Tainan City to greet Zhang. "Ancestors of Taiwanese people come from the mainland, which we will never forget," said Hsing, adding that more visits will close the gap between the two sides.
During his visit to Xiaolin Village, which suffered from Typhoon Morakot in 2009, Zhang put his palms together in the memorial temple, praying and paying homage to the souls of the 462 victims of the disaster.
The typhoon caused mountains to collapse and the whole village was buried by mudslides. Now, the ruins have been built into a memorial garden and temple. Hundreds of trees are planted on the site, each representing one affected family, and some of the 200 households surviving from the catastrophe have moved to a newly established community one km away.
During the reconstruction, the mainland donated 2.1 billion new Taiwan dollars (70.3 million U.S. dollars) to Kaohsiung to rebuild public facilities including schools and bridges.
Zhang also read a letter from pupils in the quake-hit Ya'an of Sichuan Province to express gratefulness for Taiwan compatriots' help.
"Today, I fulfilled another hope which is to honor the victims in the disaster," Zhang said to delegates of the village. "Every time disaster occurs, cross-Strait compatriots always pay sympathy to and help each other as we are of one family."
In the afternoon, Zhang also visited an orchard, chatted with farmers and answered their questions on exporting fruits to the mainland.
Also on Friday, the Taiwan affairs chief held a tea talk with Wang Yu-chi, Taiwan's mainland affairs chief. The two agreed that their second meeting would be beneficial for honing a cross-Strait regular communication mechanism, and that the consensus reached will help solve further issues.
Zhang started his four-day visit on Wednesday, and held a formal meeting with Wang in Taoyuan. Zhang visited New Taipei City on Thursday and met with its mayor, Eric Chu.