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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.