Taiwan president in historic meeting with Chinese envoy
AFP - Thursday, November 6
TAIPEI (AFP) - - Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou made history Thursday when he became the island's first leader to meet with a senior Chinese official since the end of a civil war in 1949.
Ma greeted Beijing's top negotiator on Taiwanese affairs, Chen Yunlin, at a government guest house in central Taipei amid tight security as thousands of rowdy anti-China protesters vented their fury outside the venue.
The two men shook hands and exchanged gifts.
Chen presented Ma with an ink painting of a horse, as "ma" is Chinese for horse. In his only comment during the meeting, the Chinese official told Ma: "This is by a master artist."
Ma, who earlier this year became the island's third democratically elected president since 1996, gave Chen a ceramic vase, making no audible comment as he did so.
Ma, referring to the 60 years of hostilities between the two formerly bitter enemies, made a short speech to a room packed with officials and their wives, as well as television cameras and photographers.
Their meeting, which was broadcast live, lasted around five minutes.
Ma said meetings this week between Taiwanese and Chinese officials, which saw the two sides sign a range of economic agreements, "symbolise a major step forward for cross-strait ties."
"The development fits the expectations of the people of both sides and will contribute to cross-strait stability and prosperity," Ma said.
"But we cannot deny that differences and challenges still exist, such as Taiwan's security and Taiwan's position in the international community.
"In the future, both sides should see the reality and should not deny each other's existence in order to promote the welfare of the people and cross-strait peace and to resolve our differences," he said.
Chen arrived for a five-day visit on Monday, becoming the most senior Beijing official to step foot on the island since it was estranged from China at the end of the civil war won by Mao Zedong's communists in 1949.
He and local counterpart Chiang Pin-kung signed four deals aimed at drawing the two sides closer economically -- agreements which have sparked widespread protests from supporters of formal independence for the island.
The pair agreed to introduce direct cargo shipping and postal services, increase passenger flights and shorten routes across the Taiwan Strait, and cooperate on food safety.
China promised to allow more citizens to visit the island, just 180 kilometres (110 miles) off its eastern coast.
Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has vowed to retake it with force if necessary, especially if it declares independence.
Tens of thousands of people rallied Thursday amid tight security in central Taipei to protest Chen's presence and Ma's policy of forging closer ties with China.
Organisers put the number of demonstrators at 100,000. Taipei's police had no immediate crowd estimate but said some 3,000 officers were deployed.
"Taiwan, China. One country on each side (of the strait)," the demonstrators shouted as they waved colourful flags and placards reading: "Chen Yunlin, get out."
Some threw eggs at barbed wire barricades near the parliament building.
The protests have been largely organised by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and reflect disquiet among a large section of Taiwan's 23 million people about the long-term impact of moving closer to China.
A man who gave his surname as Lo, 52, echoed the fears of many ordinary Taiwanese that the deals will bring profit to big business but see more jobs lost across the Taiwan Strait to China's cheaper labour pool.
"They sell out Taiwan by signing the agreements. The agreements are not bringing any benefit to the people, only to business groups," he said.
Recommend this article
Average (0 votes)
Sign in to recommend this article »
Most Recommended Stories »
Most Popular – Top Stories
Obama wins US election, to become first black president
Among Obama's next challenges: his own security
US elects Obama as its first black president
Obama's grandmother, family 'rock', dies on election eve
Stocks, dollar rise as Obama takes White House
View Complete List »