Up to 100,000 in Taiwan anti-China rally ahead of talks
TAICHUNG, Taiwan — Up to 100,000 protesters marched through Taiwan's third-largest city Sunday, loudly and angrily voicing unease over closer China ties ahead of a high-level meeting with the giant neighbour.Chanting and banner-wielding demonstrators filled the streets of downtown Taichung, the central city that will host the talks, highlighting deep divisions over China policy on this island of 23 million people."Go! Go! Taiwan!" chanted the protesters, many of them wearing orange headbands. "Taiwan, China -- one country on each side!"A large number of Taiwanese see their island as an independent country, even if China insists that it is part of its territory and that reunification, after 60 years apart, is just a question of time.500 police were on the scene to maintain order.The immediate trigger of Sunday's protest, organised by the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, was a visit this week by China's top Taiwan negotiator, Chen Yunlin, for talks on economic issues.It will be Chen's fourth meeting with his Taiwan counterpart since the China-friendly politician Ma Ying-jeou became president of the island in May last year.The DPP is concerned about Ma's agenda and particularly a planned trade pact with China, likely to be signed next year, which the opposition says is being prepared in a non-transparent manner and may cost jobs."We welcome everyone to join the rally to voice their demand out loud," DPP chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen told reporters ahead of the protest."We hope the government will protect the people's freedom of expression, and that the Chinese visitor will exercise self-restraint," she said.The Ma administration has promised the pact will lift growth and create employment, but this did not appear to have convinced Hsu Hui-chi, a 43-year-old mother who had brought along her two girls to Sunday's protest."Now with more agreements signed with China, and more Chinese allowed in, it will become even more difficult for them to find jobs after they grow up," she told AFP.Her daughters also took part in the protest, waving the white and green flags of the opposition."Mom has taught us not to eat China-made food and not to use China-made goods," said one of them, a fifth-grader. "Many of them are poisonous."