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Asia-Pacific
Protests at Taiwan-China meeting
Clashes overshadow historic meeting between Taiwan president and Chinese envoy.
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2008 05:30 GMT

The meeting was brought forward and kept short to try to avoid protesters [AFP]

A highly-anticipated meeting between Taiwan's president and a visiting Chinese envoy has lasted only five minutes as anti-Beijing protesters vowed to keep up their fight against closer links between the island and the mainland.

Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's president, met Chen Yunlin, the head of the Chinese government department in charge of Taiwan affairs, at a government guesthouse in Taipei on Thursday.

The meeting was held earlier than scheduled in an apparent move to avoid a repeat of demonstrations overnight that had trapped Chen in a hotel for several hours.

Al Jazeera correspondent Selina Downes said hundreds of protesters had blocked streets around the president's office in an effort to obstruct the envoy's motorcade and prevent the meeting from going ahead.

She said the protesters fear any deal between Taiwan and the mainland will make the island overly dependent on China and threaten its sovereignty.

Security

"If he [Ma] cannot even defend his own title, what can he defend for us?"

Tsai Ing-wen, DPP leader

During their brief meeting the two men exchanged gifts, smiled and briefly chatted about the gifts.

Ma said he had told the Chinese envoy the two sides needed to resolve disputes about security and Taiwan's international status.

Ma is the first Taiwan president to have contact with a top Chinese official on the island.

As expected however, Chen did not address the Taiwan leader by his formal title, "president".

Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party, had said before the meeting that the issue involved more than manners and political semantics.

"People feel anxious especially when we have to wonder whether the president, Taiwan's democratically elected president, will be addressed as president," she said.

"If he [Ma] cannot even defend his own title, what can he defend for us?"

Protests

Chen was trapped in the hotel for several hours in the overnight protest [AFP]
On Wednesday evening close to a thousand anti-China protesters had laid siege to the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei hotel, trapping the Chinese envoy and his delegation inside for several hours.

The protesters tossed eggs, burned Chinese flags, blocked traffic and chanted "communist bandit get out" while he attended a dinner banquet hosted by the ruling Nationalist party.

The protesters, who came from various political groups, were demonstrating against efforts by Ma to seek closer ties with the mainland.

Hundreds of riot police clashed with protesters and prevented them from getting into the hotel for several hours, before dispersing the crowd early on Thursday morning.

Local media reported several injuries to police and protesters.

It was unclear when Chen eventually left, but a staff member at another hotel where he was staying said he had returned around 2:30am.

Chen has drawn daily protests since he arrived on Monday for a five-day trip which included signing a trade deal many feel will ease tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

Earlier this week Chen and his Taiwan counterpart, Chiang Pin-kung, signed a landmark agreement that expands aviation and shipping links between the two sides.

He also signed a deal to exchange rare animals with Taiwan, with Beijing offering two pandas in exchange for a rare Formosa serow and a Formosa sika deer offered by Hau Long-bin, the mayor of Taipei.

Source:
Agencies
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