BEIJING, Oct 17 (Reuters) China's Communist Party officials often lambaste Taiwan's ruling, pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, but today one of its members spoke with unusual affection about her political rivals.
Taiwan and China have faced off since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 at the end of a bloody civil war.
Communist-run China has vowed to bring democratic Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.
China has generally refused to deal with the DPP or Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian since he was elected in 2000, as neither Chen nor his party explicitly accept the principle that the island is part of Chinese territory.
But Lin Liyun, a Chinese Communist Party member originally from Taiwan who has lived in China for more than half a century, told reporters on the sidelines of a Party Congress in Beijing she had fond memories of meeting Taiwan independence luminaries.
One of those was Taiwan Vice-President Annette Lu, who has called China's deployment of missiles aimed at Taiwan a form of ''state terrorism'', prompting Beijing to brand her ''scum of the nation''.
''I've met Annette Lu. At the time, she was studying women's issues. She'd not yet entered the DPP,'' said Lin, who still speaks with a strong Taiwan accent despite only having been back once since the 1949 revolution.
''I met her in the Beijing Hotel, had dinner with her and chatted. She never said she was going to get involved in Taiwan independence. We just talked about how to achieve gender equality.'' On Monday, President Hu Jintao offered a peace treaty with Taiwan and avoided mentioning using force to achieve reunification, though still said China would not tolerate the island's independence.
In another sign of a possible softening of China's stance was Lin's comments about Peng Ming-min, a father of the Taiwan independence movement and once a DPP presidential candidate.
''I did meet him twice, and I would not avoid you just because you have ideas of Taiwan independence or separatism,'' said Lin, who was Japanese language translator for late Premier Zhou Enlai.
''I knew he was called the spiritual leader of Taiwan independence, and I also read his book ... Everyone has their own life experience, and makes their own choices, and he made his.'' REUTERS RSA KN2016