Blind Chinese activist says likely to visit China rival Taiwan

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 28, 2012 8:55 AM
Blind Chinese activist says likely to visit China rival Taiwan

By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng, whose escape from house arrest sparked a diplomatic crisis between Beijing and Washington, said on Tuesday he will "most likely" accept an invitation to visit Taiwan, a move likely to infuriate China.

China considers Taiwan a breakaway province to be unified with the mainland eventually, and by force if necessary. Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou told Reuters that relations are at their most stable in 60 years.

Taiwan opposition party legislator Lin Chia-lung will visit Chen in New York, where Chen is studying, on Friday to invited Chen to address Taiwan's parliament on behalf of the party's parliamentary bloc, an official in Lin's office said. The official declined to be named.

"I think I will," said Chen, when asked whether he would accept the invitation. "Whoever invites me, I will accept.

"This is not the most important thing," Chen told Reuters by telephone. "The most important thing is I should have the freedom and the right to go anywhere in the world."

The invitation was a goodwill gesture from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, the official in Lin's office said. Any visit would need Taiwan government approval, since Chen is a mainland citizen, the official added.

Any visit will also present a dilemma for Ma who has pushed close economic engagement with China, but has also come under fire for perceived weakness in speaking out on human rights abuses.

Asked whether he thought a visit to Taiwan would anger China, Chen said: "Governments have no right to get angry with their citizens."

After breaking free from 19 months of house arrest in late April, Chen sought refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing, embarrassing the Chinese authorities and sparking a diplomatic crisis between Beijing and Washington.

Taiwan regularly plays host to people China despises, including exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama whom Beijing brands a dangerous separatist.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Standing in Taipei; Editing by Nick Macfie)