Taiwanese police arrested 13 people yesterday who splashed red paint on the wall of the presidential residence in the latest protest against China’s planned launch of a controversial new flight route. The protesters from the small anti-China opposition party Taiwan Solidarity Union had briefly scuffled with military police guarding the residence of President Ma Ying-jeou in Taipei early yesterday. The demonstration came before today’s scheduled launch of the route known as M503 over the Taiwan Strait. M503 is one of four proposed routes that would take planes over the Taiwan Strait from China’s coastal province of Zhejiang and the cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen in Fujian province. Beijing said the routes were necessary to ease congestion on an existing flight path. However, Taiwan’s authorities have criticised the unilateral move and said it posed a potential air defence threat. The route was originally due to be launched on March 5, but was postponed because of objections. China later slightly modified the M503 route, but has been pressing ahead with the launch. However, the other three routes have been indefinitely postponed, said Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration. Earlier in the past week, protesters clashed with police as they tried to enter government buildings during two successive demonstrations ahead of the scheduled launch. The protesters arrested yesterday were later released after questioning. Each one of them was fined NT$6,000 (about HK$7,600) for violating a waste disposal law. Eight protesters also faced charges of interfering with public functions over the clash, a police officer said. “Ma Ying-jeou sells out Taiwan,” one protester shouted in footage that was aired by local television. Ma’s office issued a statement condemning violence. “Taiwan is a society with the rule of law,” it said. “Any political appeal should be based on the rule of law and should not cross the boundary of peace.” The government added that negotiations with China over the routes would help safeguard the island’s aviation security. It has also said that Chinese fighter jets would not use M503.