Report: Blind Chinese activist to visit Taiwan

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Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng will visit Taiwan next year and address the legislature, the democratic island's government-owned news agency reported Sunday.

The Central News Agency quoted opposition lawmaker Lin Chia-lung of the Democratic Progressive Party, who was visiting Chen in New York, as saying the blind activist would visit.

Chen escaped house arrest in his Chinese village in April and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, provoking a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. He was allowed to go to New York in May after negotiations between China and the United States.

Chen's prospective Taiwan visit offers a challenge to Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who has built his administration around better relations with China, from which Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949.

China claims Taiwan as its territory and resents any Taiwanese activity that embarrasses Beijing.

Chen's good friend and a prominent rights lawyer in Beijing, Jiang Tianyong, said he welcomed the news that Chen would visit Taiwan next year, saying China has much to learn from the island in terms of lessons in democracy and rule of law.

"We are in general interested in its legal system and democracy of course is something that every Chinese citizen wants. Taiwan may not be exactly the path China will follow in the future but it has areas that we especially could learn from," Jiang said by phone.

"It would also be good for our Taiwanese compatriots to better understand mainland China's human rights situation. I think it will have very significant benefits for both sides of the straits," Jiang said.

The Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment while calls to the Taiwan Affairs Office rang unanswered Sunday.