Taiwan’s president appealed to protesters to keep rallies peaceful as the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit since 1949 arrived on the island for economic talks today amid a warming of ties between the long-time rivals.
Chen Yunlin waved at Taiwanese officials who greeted him and received a bouquet at the tarmac of Taipei’s international airport after arriving on an Air China chartered plane with a large delegation of businesspeople.
A black limousine escorted by police cars took him to the landmark Grand Hotel, where he is to stay during his five-day visit.
Before his arrival at the hotel, police dispersed a small group of protesters who unfurled a banner reading: “Bandit Chen Yunlin Get Out” from the hotel’s 7th floor.
Police had prepared barbed wire barricades equipped with large nets that can block eggs or other items thrown by protesters.
Pro-independence group Taiwan Society North has offered cash rewards for any protesters who hit Mr Chen with eggs during his stay.
Mr Chen, head of China’s semi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, is the highest-ranking Beijing official to visit Taiwan since the two sides split amid civil war in 1949.
The pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party said it planned to greet Mr Chen with protests and sit-ins, accusing China of using business deals to buy popular support for the island’s political unification with Beijing.
Mr Chen’s deputy, Zhang Mingqing, was attacked and thrown to the ground by protesters during an informal visit to the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan on October 20, injuring him slightly and prompting him to leave two days ahead of his scheduled departure.
China still claims the self-ruled island as a part of its territory and has said that any move toward formal independence would be met with force.
President Ma Ying-jeou has repeatedly tried to assure the public that Taiwan’s sovereignty will not be compromised. He said he understands the protesters’ concerns and will relay “the voice of the Taiwanese public” during his talks with Mr Chen.
“It is not such a bad thing to let Chen Yunlin understand Taiwanese views ... but (any protests) must be legal and peaceful,” Mr Ma was quoted as saying by Sunday’s China Times, a leading Taiwanese daily.
He noted the 1,300 missiles pointed at Taiwan and said China should ease its military threat against Taiwan.
Mr Chen’s visit is seen as a direct result of Ma’s efforts since he took office in May to improve ties and end decades of political rivalry.
Mr Chen and his Taiwanese counterpart Chiang Pin-kung will hold talks on cementing closer economic ties, especially transport links.
Protest organisers say their biggest rally will come on Thursday when Mr Ma is due to meet Mr Chen at a Taipei guest house.
On Saturday, Taiwan Society North said it would pay protesters to throw eggs at Mr Chen.