TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A visit by a Chinese official at the invitation of the Taiwanese capital’s newly elected China-friendly mayor has drawn protests on the self-ruled island.
The head of Shanghai city’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Li Xiaodong, arrived Saturday morning for a three-day visit that marks a rare point of contact between the sides.
China deems Taiwan a part of its territory to be conquered by force if necessary and has been courting pro-Chinese media and politicians on the island to further its unification agenda.
The vast majority of Taiwanese back the status quo of de-facto independence while still maintaining close economic and social ties with the mainland.
Taiwan’s democratic system allows broad leeway for local governments to act without central authority. Taipei recently elected Chiang Wan-an from the opposition Nationalist Party as mayor.
Dozens of protesters gathered at Sunshan Airport in downtown Taipei, while representatives of pro-China minority parties shouted welcomes. Neither Li or any members of his delegation issued any arrival statements.
Protesters at the airport chanted to denounce Chinese efforts undermining Taiwan’s security, democracy and independent diplomatic relations.
Wang Sing-huan, chair of the Taiwan State Building Party, told protesters that Li had a right to visit but that Taiwan’s “way of peace is to prepare for any possibility of war, and to ally other democracies so that China would not dare invade us.”
Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an is a descendant of the Chiang family that ruled in China before being driven into exile in Taiwan amid civil war in 1949.