China confirms ‘Beijing Week’ move from Kaohsiung to New Taipei

Beijing- An annual festival showcasing Beijing's culture in Taiwan that has been held in Kaohsiung for the past five years will be moved to New Taipei this year, a switch that Taiwan's ruling party suggested may have been politically motivated.

Ma Xiaoguang (???), spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office under China's State Council or Cabinet, confirmed Wednesday that with the invitation from New Taipei, the event will take place in the city's Tamsui district at around the time of Taiwan's Lantern Festival, which falls on Feb. 11 this year.

The host city was decided in the second half of last year, Ma said in a statement, which was released in response to media questions asking if the Chinese side deliberately wanted to avoid holding activities in "pan-green" Taiwanese cities or counties.

Pan-green refers to the political camp led by the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which took power in May 2016 and has had a less favorable attitude toward China than the Kuomintang (KMT), which held power from 2008 to 2016.

Ma sidestepped the question in the statement, saying that the site for the 2017 Beijing Week was decided by the "relevant side" in Beijing and the event's organizer in Taiwan. The site was "not limited to a certain city or county," he said.

All Taiwanese are welcome at the festival, where they can experience Beijing's special culture, he said.

New Taipei also confirmed the event will be held in Tamsui but said it did not play a role in arranging for Beijing Week to be held in the city. Civil groups that were in contact with the Beijing side made the arrangements, the city said.

Beijing Week had been held in Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan since 2012 at around the same time as the Lantern Festival, part of the Lunar New Year festivities that usually takes place in late January or February.

The first day of the Year of the Rooster will be Jan. 28, and the Lantern Festival, which occurs on the 15th day of the first lunar month, will be celebrated from Feb. 11 to Feb. 19. The actual dates for Beijing Week were not released.

The change of venue sparked speculation that politics were involved in the decision.

DPP lawmaker Chao Tien-lin (???), who represents a district in Kaohsiung, was cited as saying in the United Daily News that he hoped the change was not the result of a high-profile visit to China in September 2016 by the heads or deputy heads of eight cities and counties run by the opposition KMT, including a deputy mayor from New Taipei.

The KMT leaders appealed to Beijing to continue sending tourists to "pan-blue" areas in Taiwan even as it curtailed the number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan in general following the DPP's rise to power.

Relations between Taiwan and China have ground to a halt since the DPP's Tsai Ing-wen (???) took office as president.

Tsai's refusal to heed Beijing's calls to recognize the "1992 consensus" as the political foundation for cross-strait exchanges has led China to put a halt to formal cross-strait dialogue and ratchet up pressure on Taiwan internationally and economically, including its attempt to hurt Taiwan's tourism sector.

The "1992 consensus" refers to a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between China and Taiwan, which was then under a Kuomintang (KMT) government, that there is only one China, with both sides free to interpret what that means.

The DPP says the understanding never existed and is not acceptable because it implies that Taiwan is part of China, a view the majority of Taiwanese do not support.

Tsai has said, however, that she will maintain the status quo and will not be provocative while seeking to hold dialogue with China.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel