News / Asia

    Chinese Official Met by Protests in Taiwan

    Zhang Zhijun (R), director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, arrives with New Taipei City Deputy Mayor Hou You-yi, at the labor activity center in New Taipei City, June 26, 2014.
    Zhang Zhijun (R), director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, arrives with New Taipei City Deputy Mayor Hou You-yi, at the labor activity center in New Taipei City, June 26, 2014.
    Reuters

    China's top official in charge of relations with self-ruled Taiwan said on Friday that he understood and respected the choices of its people, as he was met by noisy protests in the traditionally anti-China far south of the island.

    Zhang Zhijun, director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, is making the first trip by the head of the body to Taiwan, a visit marked by a highly unusual meeting with an opposition party stalwart and mayor of the pro-independence southern port of Kaohsiung, Chen Chu.

    Pro-Taiwan supporters shout slogans to denounce the visiting Zhang Zhijun, minister of Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, as he meets with officials at the city hall in New Taipei City, Taiwan, June 26, 2014.Pro-Taiwan supporters shout slogans to denounce the visiting Zhang Zhijun, minister of Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, as he meets with officials at the city hall in New Taipei City, Taiwan, June 26, 2014.
    x
    Pro-Taiwan supporters shout slogans to denounce the visiting Zhang Zhijun, minister of Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, as he meets with officials at the city hall in New Taipei City, Taiwan, June 26, 2014.
    Pro-Taiwan supporters shout slogans to denounce the visiting Zhang Zhijun, minister of Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, as he meets with officials at the city hall in New Taipei City, Taiwan, June 26, 2014.

    Protesters waved placards deriding Zhang as a “communist bandit”.

    Zhang's unusual charm offensive in Taiwan stands in contrast to China's ties with several countries in Asia where territorial rows have flared over maritime boundaries. China has also denounced people in the former British colony of Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997, for pushing for greater democracy.

    While Chen has previously visited China and met Zhang there, spearheading efforts by the Democratic Progressive Party to engage with Beijing, high-level meetings in Taiwan with opposition figures are almost unheard of.

    “We know that Taiwan people cherish very much the social system and the life style they have chosen,” Zhang said after meeting Chen. “We in mainland China respect what Taiwanese people have chosen.”

    China welcomes people from all parties to help improve relations across the Taiwan Strait, Zhang added, calling his talks with Chen “pleasant”.

    China claims Taiwan as its own, to be taken by force if necessary, though the two have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 at the end of the Chinese civil war with the Communists.

    China says it will not countenance a de jure independent Taiwan.

    Many Taiwanese look with nervousness, if not fear, at China, where the ruling Communist Party remains unmoved by calls for political liberalization. Taiwan is a freewheeling democracy after undergoing a democratic transition in the 1980s.

    Taiwan's pride in its democracy helps reinforce the unwillingness of many to be absorbed politically by China.

    That sentiment is felt particularly keenly in Kaohsiung, one of the main heartlands of Taiwanese cultural identity and where, in 1979, rights activists held a pivotal rally which helped spark Taiwan's eventual democratic transition.

    “It's been a very difficult journey that Taiwan has gone  through in the past few decades,” Zhang said.

    Democracy in action

    Chen, who was deeply involved in Taiwan's struggle for democracy, said she explained to Zhang that the protests he may have witnessed were part of Taiwan's political system.

    “I told director Zhang that as soon as he arrived at the airport, he may have heard very different voices and protest. I said this is a very normal part of Taiwan's democracy. I appreciate if he can understand that,” Chen said.

    In 2009, China reacted angrily at plans to show a documentary about exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, a woman China labels a dangerous separatist, at the Kaohsiung film festival, sparking a boycott of the city by Chinese tourists.

    Chen at the time shrugged off China's complaints, saying it would harm Kaohsiung's commitment to human rights if it gave in to Beijing.

    Underscoring the depth of feeling in southern Taiwan, Zhang was met by hundreds of protesters at Kaohsiung's high speed train station, some waving placards reading “Communist Zhang Zhijun, get the hell back to China”.

    A much smaller group of protesters also met him when he flew into Taipei on Wednesday.

    “Chen Chu should face the demands of the people and the values of human rights and refrain from the pursuit of economic growth at the expense of Taiwan's hard-earned democratic achievements,” said Chen Yin-ting, part of another group of protesters outside the venue where Zhang and Chen met.

    The once heavily industrialized Kaohsiung has lost many of its companies and factories to China, drawn away by a massive population and low manufacturing costs, and it has struggled economically in recent years.

    Zhang's trip comes at a sensitive time.

    Protesters occupied Taiwan's parliament and mounted mass demonstrations over three weeks starting in March in anger at a pending trade pact, which will open various sectors in both economies.

    The opposition calls the pact a threat to Taiwan's industry and fears it could open the door to Chinese influence on its politics.

    Signed a year ago, it has stalled in Taiwan's parliament, which is set to discuss it at a session overlapping with Zhang's visit. Advocates, including the China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou, say it is a step to normalizing ties and will provide jobs and raise living standards. 

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Steven Hong from: USA
    June 28, 2014 8:06 AM
    Don't let yourself be fooled by smiling faces.
    In Response

    by: Kim Dung from: Saigon, VN
    June 29, 2014 2:59 PM
    Someone had bought (made in China) pain, pain turned out bad, very bad; so he got very upset, and he tried to pour bad pain at Zhang Zhijun.

    by: Jean Lin
    June 27, 2014 10:22 PM
    The most heartly WELCOME by the protesters last night wasn't covered. Pity!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora