Taiwan’s KMT Pulls out From Cross-Strait Forum Due to CCTV’s ‘Beg for Peace’ Comment

Taiwan’s KMT Pulls out From Cross-Strait Forum Due to CCTV’s ‘Beg for Peace’ Comment
A morning commuter walks in front of the China Central Television (CCTV) building in Beijing on Dec. 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Li Hong, the host of “Cross the Strait” program of Beijing's official mouthpiece CCTV made a comment on the show on Sept. 10 that drew strong backlash among Taiwan’s political parties. She said on the show that Wang Jinping, who would lead the Kuomintang (KMT) delegation to attend the annual Cross-Strait Forum, was coming to the mainland to “beg for peace.”

Although CCTV changed its rhetoric soon after, it refused to apologize, which has been unable to quell criticism among Taiwan’s political parties. KMT later announced that it would not participate in this year’s forum as a political party—this is the first time since the Cross-Strait Forum started 11 years ago.

The Forum will be held in Xiamen city on Sept. 19. The KMT originally decided to send a delegation led by Wang Jinping, the former President of the Legislative Yuan.

On Sept. 10, Li Hong, the host of the CCTV Channel 4 "Cross the Strait," said on the show that Wang was sent by Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to relay the message that cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) should not be disrupted. Then she commented on a short video, saying that “war is coming to the Taiwan Strait and this person (Wang Jinping) wants to come to the mainland to beg for peace.”

Li's comment has triggered cross-party criticism from both KMT and DPP in Taiwan. Taiwan’s ruling party DPP ridiculed it, and the opposition party KMT said it’s unacceptable. Taiwan’s Executive Yuan President Su Zhenchang said that at this moment when many countries around the world are criticizing communist China, the KMT was still planning to send a delegation to participate in the Forum, which is part of the CCP’s United Front strategy. And even now the Chinese media have described the KMT’s action as begging for peace. “It is really not worth it,” he concluded. Hong Mengkai, a KMT legislator, said that the Kuomintang “can be poor, but it cannot be without dignity.”

The mainland Taiwan-related departments have come forward to ease the situation, pointing out that CCTV's comments are unofficial. On Sept. 12, Li tried to tone down her original comment, saying that “beg for peace" originally meant “seek for peace.” She also said that her expression was "purely personal and not official." CCTV also issued a comment on Sept. 13, welcoming Wang to lead a delegation to attend the Cross-Strait Forum.

On the afternoon of Sept. 14, the KMT held a press conference, hosted by Wang Yumin, chairman of the Cultural Biography Committee. He stated that the KMT originally announced that Wang Jinping would lead a delegation to attend the Forum, but the improper “beg for peace” comment in the CCTV program has changed the tone of the exchanges. He announced that due to the current overall atmosphere on both sides of the strait which is detrimental to exchanges and dialogues, the KMT will not participate in the Forum as a political party this year.

The Central News Agency reported that after the KMT announcement, former KMT acting chairman Lin Rongde, who originally planned to participate in the Forum in his personal capacity, told the media on Sept. 15 that he would cancel his trip to the Forum in accordance with the KMT policy.

Regarding the CCTV’s change of rhetoric, Lin Zhongbin, the former Minister of Defense of Taiwan, told Radio Free Asia that the change from “beg for peace” to “seek for peace,” meant that “on one hand, it is a shift of direction towards Taiwan. And (the CCP) as whole have not realized it. There is always a disconnection among them. The second is to make trouble for you anyway, if you ask me to change it, I will change it and make a fool of Xi Jinping.”

Professor Fan Shiping of Taiwan Normal University believes that Li’s inconsistency in her words highlights the internal conflicts of the CCP regarding its Party lines.

There are various analyses on the background of the “beg for peace” comment. However, the CCTV has not apologized. The KMT made an announcement on Sept. 15 to cancel its participation in the Forum and KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang said that exchanges between Taiwan and China should be based on the principle of “equality and dignity.”

The Cross-Strait Forum was first held in 2009 and is the largest exchange event between Taiwan and mainland China. Over the years, the political parties that have participated in the Forum are the KMT, the People First Party, and the New Party on Taiwan’s side; while the Chinese side is led by representatives of the CCP and its Taiwan Affairs Office. In previous years, the chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Wang Yang, attended.

In recent years, the Mainland Affairs Council of Republic of China (MAC) has identified the Cross Strait Forum as one of the ways that the CCP’s United Front policy can push for unification with Taiwan. Therefore, the MAC prohibits any government unit from participating in activities involving the CCP’s “One Country, Two Systems Taiwan Program” or “Democratic Consultation,” and reminds people to abide by relevant regulations regarding the cross strait activities.

The DPP even bans all its party members from participating in the Forum.