Protesters from around the country yesterday converged in Greater Kaohsiung, the first stop of Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) first trip to southern Taiwan, for a second day of protest.
Small groups of rowdy demonstrators streamed into key venues throughout Chen’s visit, including E-DA World, the tourist complex where Chen was staying and had lunch with local Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) politicians and business executives.
Their signs bore messages stating that Chen was not welcome in the southern city, a hotbed of support for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which opposes the visit.
Clashes almost erupted at the Taiwan High Speed Rail station in the morning when Chen and his entourage were met by dozens of pro-independence supporters and advocates of unification with China.
Chen continued to keep a smile on his face as protesters from the two sides, blocked off by rings of uniformed police, yelled that “Taiwan and China are separate countries,” and “Peaceful unification will give peace to all things.”
Pro-independence supporters, numbering between 150 and 200, continued to tail Chen as he visited the Port of Kaohsiung for an economic conference, the Fo Guang Shan monastery and an export processing zone in the northern part of Greater Kaohsiung.
“Support Taiwan independence,” the protesters chanted, as some threw eggs and chrysanthemums in the direction of Chen’s motorcade. They said the chrysanthemums, in a reference to the “Jasmine Revolution,” served as a substitute, since it is not the season for jasmine.
None of the projectiles hit the passing vehicles, as the demonstrators were kept at a distance by a large police presence, who formed a human barrier backed by barricades and barbed wire.
Police were forced to intervene when several local DPP politicians broke through barriers at one point during the morning visit to the Port of Kaohsiung.
The municipal councilors staged a sit-in after failing to break past the second of four more barbed-wire barricades separating them and a building where Chen addressed a closed-door economic conference, despite pushing and shoving with police.
Busloads of protesters, most of them elderly, arrived from Taipei, Greater Taichung and other cities, led by pro-independence groups and local DPP politicians, keeping a pledge to tail Chen “like his shadow” during his three days in the south.
“It’s a fact — Taiwan and China are two separate countries. Each side of the Taiwan Strait is an independent country,” said Huang Yung-tien (黃永田), a retired pilot from Greater Tainan. “Why must Chen Yunlin come here acting otherwise?”
A few joined the demonstration out of curiosity, drawn by the emotional speeches given by protest leaders.
Yang Fung-kuang (楊豐光), a 30 year-old who said he was in the city for the Lantern Festival, criticized President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) cross-strait policies, contending they were skewed too much in favor of Chinese interests.
“The [lavish] treatment given to Chen Yunlin shows exactly what is wrong with these policies,” Yang said.
A transportation worker surnamed Lu (盧) told the Agence France Presse: “It’s good that Chinese companies come to Kaohsiung to invest, but I worry that China is using economic means to back its real intention of unification.”