Beijing envoy tells Taiwan of China's wish to 'move down the road of peace'

 

CHINA’S SENIOR envoy to Taiwan, Chen Yunlin, has told his hosts during a visit to the self-ruled island that Beijing wants to “move down the road of peace”, a day after tens of thousands of Taiwanese demonstrators took to the streets to blast the government for its China-friendly policies.

The protesters view Mr Chen as the spearhead for Beijing’s proclaimed policy of uniting Taiwan with the mainland. Heavy security surrounded Mr Chen in the central city of Taichung, with police preventing several hundred protesters from besieging his hotel.

“Relations are constantly moving ahead in the right direction. In the past year we have negotiated as equals and communicated with goodwill to reach consensus,” Mr Chen said, as he was escorted into his hotel to avoid a scuffle outside.

“I saw many compatriots who oppose my visit and others who welcome me here to engage in talks for a mutual win-win,” Mr Chen added. “I definitely respect the expression of different opinions.”

This statement is rare recognition by a Chinese official of demonstrations taking place against the mainland government. It is also significant as the acknowledgement of respect for different opinions could be a reference to the One China, Two Systems policy that prevails in Hong Kong and Macau, which has often been suggested as a template for unifying Taiwan and the mainland.

Relations across the strait of Taiwan have become far more cordial since President Ma Ying-jeou of the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) party took over the presidency in May last year.

The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party believes the president’s China-friendly policy is setting the island up for an eventual Chinese takeover – a charge which President Ma vehemently denies.

“All my policies focus on what is good for the Taiwanese people. The people can rest assured that I will defend Taiwan’s sovereignty and interests,” Mr Ma said.

Lifting the battered economy is one of the main challenges facing Mr Ma’s government and central to these efforts is the signing of a wide-ranging trade pact with the mainland some time next year.

The opposition believes the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement will flood the island with cheap Chinese products and lead to massive job losses.

Beijing and Taipei have been fierce rivals since they split after the Chinese civil war in 1949, when the losing Kuomintang forces under Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province and is set on returning Taiwan to the motherland, by force if needs be.