Ma Ying-jeou, a former leader of Taiwan, criticized the island's current administration under the Democratic Progressive Party's Tsai Ing-wen on Thursday for the stagnant state of cross-Strait relations, in which communication with the Chinese mainland has almost halted.
In a statement released as he celebrated his 73rd birthday, Ma said that the exchange visit by mainland students to Taiwan due to start on Saturday are the best birthday gift he has received.
Expressing deep concern about the state of cross-Strait communications in recent years, Ma said that he hopes that the visit will signify a turning point in cross-Strait relations, and that communication will return to normal.
"The visit is the most important youth exchange program from the mainland in recent years and I will personally receive them, in the hopes of contributing to the restoration of cross-strait relations," he said.
A group of 37 teachers and students from five mainland universities will visit Taiwan from Saturday until July 23 upon the invitation of the Taiwan-based Ma Ying-jeou Foundation, according to mainland authorities.
Led by Hao Ping, Party chief of Peking University, the group includes teachers and students from Peking University, Tsinghua University, Fudan University, Wuhan University and Hunan University.
During their trip, members will engage in exchange with peers from Taiwan University, Chengchi University, Chinese Culture University and Dong Hwa University. The trip will also include stops in Taipei, Taichung, New Taipei, Hsinchu and Hualien.