Taiwan's KMT vice chairman Hau Lung-bin (left) assured Wang Yang, Beijing's fourth highest-ranking official, of his party's anti-independence stance. Photo: Taiwan Central News Agency

Kuomintang party vice chairman Hau Lung-bin has broken with the pro-independence stance of Taiwan’s government during a meeting with a top Communist Party cadre in Xiamen and declared that he wants to see reunification with China.

The former Taipei mayor also echoed Beijing’s insistence that Taiwan honor the “1992 consensus”, an apparent acceptance by both countries that there is only one China. The former Kuomintang (KMT) government insisted that there was such an agreement, but the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration denies that it ever happened.

“Thanks to the KMT’s unwavering adherence to the ‘1992 consensus’ and opposition to Taiwan independence, cross-strait relations improved during the party’s eight years in office from 2008 to 2016,” Hau said, extolling the KMT’s pro-unification platform in an address that was closely watched in both China and Taiwan. Hau added that he hoped Taiwan and China could “reunite as family members”.

DPP members were quick to condemn his comments, with some even accusing him of “treason”. “It’s unimaginable for a former mayor of Beijing to descend upon Taiwan and lend his support for Taiwan independence, but Hau has effectively done something similar and betrayed Taiwan,” charged one DPP lawmaker.

Attending the 10th annual Straits Forum, Hau met with Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Chairman Wang Yang, China’s fourth highest-ranking official. Wang also sits in the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the Communist Party’s top echelon of power.

The DPP has pursued a pro-independence stance since taking office in 2016, dragging relations with China to a new low. Taking up this point, Wang issued a stern warning against the Taipei government’s  “desinicization” drive in his forum speech and blamed independence advocates for the present standoff between the two sides.

Hau is one of the most senior political figures to visit China since cross-strait ties became frayed. It is also the first time since his party lost the 2016 presidential election to the DPP that a KMT heavyweight has signaled unequivocally that he opposes splitting the island from China. Accompanying him to Xiamen, which is only 350 kilometers west of Taipei, were KMT members, lawmakers and academics.

Despite the backlash over his comments in Taiwan, Hau is widely tipped as a possible candidate who could kick out incumbent leader Tsai Ing-wen in the 2020 presidential election and erase memories of the KMT’s ignominious defeat in 2016. Beijing has also been placing high hopes on the KMT to nominate popular figures like Hau.

Hau (right) with the KMT’s most recent president, Ma Ying-jeou. Photo: Liberty Times

But when asked about his political ambitions, Hau caused controversy by remarking that Terry Gou, chairman of contract manufacturing giant Foxconn, had all the pedigree to be president and promised that the KMT would unite behind him in 2020.

Still, analysts believe that with Hau’s popularity rating on the rise, he will be seen as one of the very few “winnable candidates” that KMT can field for the presidential race, even if the man himself disagrees.

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