XIAMEN, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- In tune with a senior performer's recital, a singing duo crooned an affectionate poem "Nostalgia" by Yu Guangzhong, a mainland-born poet who spent his life in Taiwan, at the main conference of the 12th Straits Forum that opened in Xiamen on Sunday.
The aching separation and longing for unity expressed by the duo struck a chord among participants at the forum -- from both sides of the Taiwan Strait -- who share the same longing for more frequent contact and closer ties.
Despite the COVID-19 epidemic and obstruction from the Taiwan authority, the annual bellwether event for people-to-people exchanges saw broad participation from representatives of both sides of the Taiwan Strait both online and offline, fully demonstrating the overwhelming public support for closer cross-Strait ties, according to the organizers.
This year's forum carries on the theme of promoting people-to-people exchanges across the Strait, with 46 activities arranged to facilitate cultural and economic exchanges as well as communications among younger generations and primary-level workers.
Since its inception in 2009, the forum has developed into the largest and most popular event featuring people-to-people exchanges across the Strait. This year, it has attracted close to 2,000 attendees from Taiwan.
Echoing the fight against COVID-19, the forum invited participants to share their experiences of mutual support to overcome difficulties. When the mainland faced shortages of anti-virus supplies at the beginning of the fight, Chen Hung-yi, a young entrepreneur from Taiwan, trekked to Japan, Thailand and Vietnam at his own expense, purchased 32,000 face masks among other anti-epidemic supplies and donated them to the mainland.
"Young Taiwan people like us feel obliged to extend a helping hand," said Chen.
More and more young people like Chen are at the forefront of the construction of closer cross-Strait ties. Yang Pin-hua, a singer from a local ethnic group in Taiwan, now runs a music-themed bar in Beijing. He has been building his dream and spreading his ethnic culture to young people on the mainland through his music.
After completing more than 500 performances in 68 cities across the mainland, he had gained a better understanding of cultural exchanges across the Strait. People living on the two sides share the same cultural roots and are connected by blood, said Yang.
"I'm from Taiwan, and I'm proud of being Chinese," he said.
Lu Li-an, vice head of the All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots, noted at the forum that only through integrated development can people embrace a sound and prosperous future.
"We all hope to live and work in peace and contentment. This requires joint efforts from people on both sides of the Strait, and it is what we can work for," said Lu, who was born in Taiwan and has settled down in Shanghai.
Against the current backdrop, the opening of the forum showed the sincere and strong longing of the Chinese people across the Taiwan Strait for peace, exchanges and development, said Liu Xiangping, an expert on Taiwan studies at Nanjing University. "The longing cannot and will not be stopped by anyone or any force," said Liu.