Taiwan Protesters Trap Chinese Envoy in Hotel

Taiwanese protesters face off with police while demonstrating against the presence of the highest-ranking official from Communist China ever to visit the island. The official came to sign a trade agreement with Taiwan.
Taiwanese protesters face off with police while demonstrating against the presence of the highest-ranking official from Communist China ever to visit the island. The official came to sign a trade agreement with Taiwan. (By Wally Santana -- Associated Press)

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By William Foreman
Associated Press
Thursday, November 6, 2008

TAIPEI, Taiwan, Nov. 6 -- Hundreds of Taiwanese protesters surrounded a hotel in the capital where a Chinese envoy was attending a banquet Wednesday, tossing eggs, burning Chinese flags and trapping the envoy inside into the early morning.

Chen Yunlin, the highest-ranking official from Communist China ever to visit Taiwan, has drawn daily protests since his five-day trip began Monday.

He was able to leave the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei hotel at 2:15 a.m. after police with riot shields and clubs began dispersing the protesters. Some demonstrators had to be dragged or carried away.

The Chinese official came to Taiwan to sign a trade agreement that many believe will greatly ease tensions between the rivals. But many protesters oppose closer ties with China, which they see as the island's biggest security threat.

Relations have been tense between China and Taiwan since the communists won a bloody civil war in 1949 and took over the mainland. The Beijing government insists that Taiwan must eventually unify with the motherland or face invasion.

One of the most anticipated -- and potentially most awkward -- events on Chen's schedule came Thursday, when he met Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou. After the brief meeting, Ma called the visit a success.

There had been much speculation about whether Chen would address Ma by his formal title, "president." But Chen didn't use the term, sticking with Beijing's policy of not treating Taiwan like an independent country.

The leadership in Beijing does not formally recognize Taiwan's government, insisting that it is a Chinese province and, as such, does not have a president.

By not using the formal title, Chen will probably anger many Taiwanese, who are fiercely proud of their democracy and economy, which boasts several world-class technology companies.

The issue involves much more than manners and political semantics, said Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the opposition pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

"People feel anxious, especially when we have to wonder whether the president, Taiwan's democratically elected president, will be addressed as president," she said.

"If he [Ma] cannot even defend his own title, what can he defend for us?" she added.


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