Protests mar China, Taiwan officials’ meet

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TAIPEI: China’s top Taiwan affairs official Zhang Zhijun met for talks with his Taiwanese counterpart Saturday, as dozens of angry demonstrators protested the visit.

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Zhang, director of China’s Taiwan affairs office, met Andrew Hsia, chairman of Taiwan’s top China policy decision-making body, the Mainland Affairs Council, in Kinmen — a Taiwan-administered island off China’s Xiamen city.

As Zhang arrived by boat, members from the anti-China opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) waved placards and shouted “Oppose Hsia-Zhang meeting! Taiwan interests betrayed!”

China’s rejection of Taiwan as a founding member of the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was expected to be raised at the meeting.

Also expected on the agenda were a controversial goods trade agreement and new flight routes.

Tensions between Taiwan and China have decreased markedly since 2008 after Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party (KMT) came to power promising to beef up trade and tourism links.

But public sentiment in Taiwan has recently once again turned against closer ties with Beijing, with voters saying trade deals have been agreed in secret and have not benefited ordinary citizens.

In March last year, around 200 students occupied parliament for more than three weeks to demonstrate against a controversial services trade pact, while thousands rallied in support of what became known as the “Sunflower Movement”.

The KMT suffered its worst-ever showing in local polls in November — seen as a barometer for presidential elections in 2016 — with its Beijing-friendly policy blamed for alienating voters.

Despite the setback, the embattled Ma has repeatedly defended the rapprochement with China, saying it has turned Taiwan Strait, once one of the flash points in Asia, into a peaceful area.

China and Taiwan split at the end of the civil war in 1949, and Beijing still regards the island as a province awaiting reunification, never ruling out the use of force to achieve it.

AFP

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