China envoy arrives amid civilized Taiwanese protests
Chen Yunlin says talks will not touch on 'domestic politics'
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
Page 1
2008-11-04 01:35 AM
China's top envoy Chen Yunlin arrived amid extensive security yesterday for the highest-level visit by a Chinese official to Taiwan in six decades.

Chen, the chairman of the semi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, will hold talks with his Taiwanese counterpart, Straits Exchange Foundation chairman P.K. Chiang, sign four agreements, and meet with President Ma Ying-jeou (°‥-^?E) during his landmark stay.

Chen arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in an Air China weekend charter flight covered in effigies of the Beijing Olympics mascots. The plane touched down at 11:46 a.m., or about half an hour later than planned.

Chen and his wife were greeted with bouquets but not with a red carpet as they shook hands with SEF vice chairman Kao Koong-lian and other officials. The couple boarded a limousine which took them straight to Taipei's Grand Hotel, his residence and also the venue for the talks during his stay.

Arriving at the hotel, Chen embraced Chiang and delivered a short speech for the waiting media, saying he was touched by his first visit to Taiwan.

The Chinese envoy said his mission was quite simple.

"The topics (of our talks) touch upon the interests of the people on both sides. They will not involve political issues, and even less the island's domestic politics," Chen said

The first round of talks between Chiang and Chen took place in Beijing last June, when they reached agreement on opening up Taiwan to more Chinese tourists and on launching weekend charter flights. Talks between the two sides had been interrupted for nine years.

Chen's first day in Taiwan was marked by numerous but mostly small-scale protests, from the airport to the hotel to the limited number of sites he visited. Police decided to mobilize a total of 7,000 officers for the visit after Chen's deputy, Zhang Mingqing (±i??M), was mobbed by a crowd of anti-Chinese protesters at a Tainan park during a private visit on Oct. 21.

Even before Chen's arrival yesterday, there were minor incidents at the airport, with protesters shouting "Taiwan must be independent," or waving Republic of China flags.

President Ma later said that national flags should not be removed just for Chen's sake, cabinet spokeswoman Vanessa Shih told reporters.

The most eye-catching protest took place at the Grand Hotel when, for a short time, four DPP women politicians succeeded in suspending large banners with the Chinese-language text for "Bandit Chen Yunlin, Get Lost." Police quickly removed the protesters and their banners.

All through the day, protesters tried to break through police cordons or enter the hotel through other means, one man driving a car with the name of the Chinese Communist Party and red Chinese five-star flags. About a hundred taxi drivers sounded their horns in a sign of protest against the visit.

While the majority of the protesters were Taiwan independence supporters, Tibetans were also present, two of them waving Tibetan flags from a car tailing Chen's motorcade from the airport.

When Chen visited Taipei 101 for dinner, dozens of supporters of the Falun Gong wearing yellow T-shirts sat down outside in meditation. At the dinner, Chen said he had seen and heard the opposition voices. It was normal to have supporters and opponents for anything, he said.

The DPP started an overnight sit-in near the Legislative Yuan last night. The Tainan DPP city councilor indicted for the confrontation with Zhang, Wang Ting-yu, said yesterday he would travel up to Taipei with 200 cars bearing the slogan "Taiwan Independence needs no China dependence."

Supporters of Chen's visit were also reported present, with dozens of people led by former People First Party lawmaker Shen Chih-huei lining up along the highway to wave a welcome as his motorcade passed by. Chinese spouses of Taiwanese citizens also held a welcome event.

On his first-ever day in Taiwan, Chen visited the widow of late SEF chairman Koo Chen-fu, Cecilia Koo, at the headquarters of her husband's Taiwan Cement Corporation. The late industrialist signed the first historic agreements with Chen's predecessor, Wang Daohan, in Singapore in 1993. They met again in Shanghai in 1998.

"Winter has gone, and the arrival of spring is not far anymore," Koo's widow told her visitor yesterday.

Cher Wang, a daughter of late Formosa Plastics chairman Y.C. Wang, visited Chen at his hotel. The tycoon, who died last month, was an outspoken supporter of improved relations with China. Chen is reportedly likely to visit his grave today.

In the afternoon, SEF and ARATS held a preparatory round of meetings at the Grand Hotel under the guidance of their respective vice chairmen, Taiwan's Kao and China's Zheng Lizhong, who arrived in Taipei last Friday.

During the talks, agreement was reached to expand the number of direct charter flights from 36 a weekend to 108 a week, and the Chinese destinations from five to 21, local media quoted Kao as saying.

Chen's first day in Taipei ended with a visit to the world's tallest building, Taipei 101, where he was also invited for a dinner with SEF officials and Taiwan's top business leaders.

The two highlights for Chen's five-day stay are expected for today, when both sides are planning to sign four agreements about direct flights, direct shipping links, postal links and food safety, and for Thursday, when Chen is expected to meet President Ma.

There has been speculation about what the two men will discuss, such as the removal of Chinese missiles targeting Taiwan, and what expression Chen will use to address Ma.

China does not recognize Taiwan as an independent and sovereign nation, and therefore its media and officials never use the term president for the island's head of state.

The Chinese envoy will also meet with leaders of the ruling Kuomintang and will attend two seminars on economic and financial topics.

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