Protesters give Beijing envoy Chen Deming taste of Taiwanese democracy

Protestors barred from approaching Communist Party's top negotiatoras he begins first Taiwan tour amid swirl of cross-strait controversies

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 5:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 5:14am

Beijing's top negotiator with Taipei got a taste of Taiwanese-style democracy yesterday as he began his first official trip to the island.

Several small groups of protesters tried to approach Chen Deming, president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, to voice their complaints over Taiwan's growing ties with the mainland.

Chen's visit came three days after Beijing inflamed territorial tensions by creating an air defence zone in the East China Sea that overlaps a similar Taiwanese zone and includes the Diaoyu Islands, which are claimed by Beijing, Taipei and Tokyo.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party had called on the island's president, Ma Ying-jeou, to cancel Chen's visit to show Taipei's displeasure over the move. Although cross-strait relations have warmed in recent years, Beijing still sees Taiwan as a rogue province to be recovered, by force if necessary.

"We are extremely disappointed with what the Ma government has done - an extremely weak statement that could in no way uphold our sovereignty," said Joseph Wu, director of the DPP's policy committee.

The government on Saturday reiterated the island's sovereignty claims, but called for peaceful negotiations to resolve the territorial disputes.

Other DPP legislators demanded that Ma's government lodge a strong protest over the air defence zone during a meeting between Chen and his local counterpart, Lin Join-sane, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation.

A dozen activists tried to force their way into the foundation's building during the meeting to voice their displeasure over a services trade pact, one of 19 economic and co-operation deals signed by the two sides since 2008. They shouted, "Get out of Taiwan, Chen Deming!" and waved banners reading, "No sell-out of Taiwan to China!"

Some activists and independence supporters believe Chen had come to Taipei to pressure Ma to secure the approval of the pact in the legislature.

Chen, who took over as Beijing's cross-strait negotiator in April, denied his visit was intended to shore up support within Ma's government for the pact.

"I am here for economic and trade fact-finding," he told reporters as his 17-member delegation arrived at Taoyuan international airport. "After 12 years, once again I am able to see Taiwan and I am going to feel the heartbeat of Taiwan in the next few days and enjoy [my] wonderful [stay] in Taiwan."

His eight-day trip will take him to pilot economic zones and other business projects in nine cities.

Large numbers of police were mobilised to keep protesters from approaching Chen while he was at the airport and visited Taoyuan Aerotropolis and Taipei Harbour in the afternoon.

Members of the pro-independence and some civic groups have vowed to "shadow" Chen everywhere to show their unhappiness with the pact and Beijing's dealings with Taipei.

When told there would be more protests against him during his trip, Chen said he was not worried. "Hurling shoes [at me]? I hope not, but I will be careful," Chen said.