Despite rowdy protest on the streets of Taipei, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has met with the Chinese envoy who signed historic cross-strait transportation deals earlier this week. Thibault Worth reports from Taipei.
The meeting Thursday took place five hours earlier than expected, to dodge protesters angry about the visit by Chen Yunlin, the chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straight. But it lasted only five minutes.
Taiwan President Ma praises the landmark deal Chen signed Tuesday to increases transportation links between the island and mainland China. Ma adds, however, that significant differences remain between the two sides regarding Taiwan's security and international status.
The meeting, while brief, was the highest-level contact between a Taiwan president and an official from the mainland government in nearly 60 years.
During the meeting, Chen notably did not refer to Mr. Ma by his title of president. Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war, and Beijing does not recognize Taiwan's democratically elected government.
Despite the surprise meeting time, protesters thronged the streets of Taipei through most of the day chanting, "Taiwan is my country" and other slogans. Many Taiwanese fear that closer ties with China may come at the expense of Taiwan's sovereignty. Protesters were also angry that Chen failed to call his host, "President Ma."
Protesters have dogged Chen since he arrived in Taiwan on Monday. On Wednesday night, nearly a thousand protesters trapped Chen inside a hotel while he was attending a dinner banquet.
China, which is ruled by the Communist Party, claims sovereignty over Taiwan. The Beijing government repeatedly has said the island will be reunited with the mainland, by force, if necessary.
Many island residents favor formal independence from the mainland, but Mr. Ma's administration favors greater economic integration.