Dec 21, 2009
Taiwan protests greet China trade talks official
Dec 21, 2009
TAICHUNG, Taiwan (Reuters) - Noisy but heavily policed protests greeted a top Chinese official when he arrived in Taiwan on Monday 21 December for talks on a broad two-way trade deal between the political rivals.
About 200 protesters, organised by the island's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), shouted "China, Taiwan, one side, one country," as Chinese negotiator Chen Yunlin was driven from the airport along a guarded back road.
The DPP seeks Taiwan's formal independence from China.
Hundreds more protesters blasted air horns as Chen reached his hotel ahead of the talks in Taichung in central Taiwan, the self-ruled, export-reliant island China claims as its own.
Chinese and Taiwanese negotiators will meet formally on Tuesday 22 December to discuss an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), which would slash import tariffs and open the banking sector. It is set to be signed next year.
"Anything they sign has to go through the Taiwan people's approval, yet we don't know what they're going to sign," said Huang Chun-jung, 27, a protester from southern Taiwan.
"We're going to use peaceful means today to express our opposition," he said at the airport.
Some Taiwan merchants in traditional industries fear the ECFA will lead to a flood of competing goods from economic powerhouse China.
Hundreds of police stood guard outside the airport as Chen arrived and at the meeting venue in Taichung. Protesters have vowed to keep targeting Chen throughout his five-day stay.
Chen acknowledged the protests in remarks at his hotel.
"Along the road I saw some local people who didn't welcome me," he said. "I offer them my respect."
Protests during China-Taiwan talks in Taipei last year sparked rioting that injured police and demonstrators.
China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.
But relations have warmed since China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office last year. The two sides have since signed historic trade deals.
Also on Tuesday 22 December's agenda is a deal to avoid double taxation while lowering both corporate and personal income taxes, incentives for Taiwan investors in China as well as foreign firms based on one side but active on the other.
(Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Paul Tait)
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