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Taipei Mayor Ko toughens up on China at twin-city forum

Significance of Taipei-Shanghai Forum questioned amid tensions

2022 Taipei-Shanghai Forum. 

2022 Taipei-Shanghai Forum.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Tuesday (July 19) uncharacteristically urged China against coercing Taiwan in the shortest-ever Taipei-Shanghai Forum held via video link.

Now in its 13rd year, the cross-strait forum was reduced to less than half a day and featured a Ko who appeared more uncompromising in his stance towards China. “The ratcheted-up tensions due to China’s military threat and import bans on Taiwan’s agricultural products are hurting the feelings of people on both sides,” he noted.

Continuous bickering and political maneuvering will lead to nowhere, he stressed, calling on the two sides to ditch animosity towards each other. Unbridled hostility must be checked and a crisis management mechanism put in place to prevent things from going out of control, he urged.

The hardened rhetoric was seen as a departure from Ko’s previous stance towards Beijing. Ko dismissed the suggestion, saying many of the grievances Taiwan harbored could be relayed to China in private events, but when in-person interactions are not available, “They can only be aired publicly,” CNA quoted him as saying.

This was the last Taipei-Shanghai Forum Ko attended in his capacity as the mayor of Taiwan’s capital. He has for years advocated better communication between the two sides and insisted on holding the event, which is one of the few remaining platforms for cross-strait engagement.