Apr 27, 2005

Taiwan: Fights over Historic China Trip

The visit to China of a leading Taiwanese politician stirs angry protests from opponents who accuse him of selling out Taiwan
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A leading Taiwanese politician is making a historic visit to China, stirring angry protests from opponents who accuse him of selling out Taiwan.

Hundreds of pro-independence protesters scuffled with riot police and called Lien Chan a "traitor" as the Nationalist Party (or Kuomintang, KMT) leader flew out of Taipei on an eight-day, four-city trip.

Mr Lien, who called his trip "a journey of peace", is due to hold talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Friday.

It will be the first meeting between Nationalist and Communist Party leaders since the Nationalists fled to Taiwan after losing China’s civil war in 1949.

The protesters were furious that Mr Lien appeared to be playing into Beijing’s strategy of wooing the pro-unification Opposition to alienate independence-leaning Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian.

"We hope to use this visit to understand recent developments in the mainland and to exchange views with mainland leaders on peace, and cultural and economic ties," Chinese-born Mr Lien said.

China views Taiwan as part of its territory and has pointed an estimated 700 missiles at the democratically ruled island.

Tensions have been renewed by Beijing’s enactment in March of an anti-secession law, which sanctioned non-peaceful measures against Taiwan should it push for formal statehood.

"Sixty years is a long time," Mr Lien said, referring to when he left China. "We had a heart-wrenching history, so compatriots and friends on both sides should seize this chance to move along a win-win road to mutual benefit, aid, co-existence and tolerance."

Most opinion polls show the general public approve of Mr Lien’s visit to China and analysts say hopes are high that it will help reduce tensions.

The Chen Administration had initially condemned the KMT for trying to usurp the Government’s China policy, but softened its stance after Mr Lien said he would not negotiate, or sign, any agreements with Mr Hu.

President Chen gave his blessing to Mr Lien and said he hoped the KMT leader would bring back concrete observations on how to improve bilateral ties.

Source: The New Zealand Herald