Sporadic, but determined protests are being planned for Wednesday next week over a visit by Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), despite Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-led municipalities rolling out the red carpet for the envoy.
Chen, chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), will be in Taiwan for what has been termed an “economic trip” to visit leading Taiwanese industrialists in southern parts of the country, media reports said.
The timing is set to coincide with a first meeting of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation -Committee (ECC), mandated under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed by Taipei and Beijing in June last year.
It remains unclear whether Chen will be a direct participant in the talks.
His visit to the DPP-administered south — his first — is expected to attract protests by DPP and pro-independence supporters given the sensitivity of relations and his instrumental role in the signing of the ECFA, a tariff-reducing agreement that has drawn broad opposition in the south.
Already a number of pro--independence groups are gearing up to send at least two tour buses carrying about 100 protesters to tail Chen as he tours electronics factories and visits Greater Kaohsiung and probably Greater Tainan.
Although both municipalities have officially said Chen was welcome to visit, they also said they respected people’s right to protest.
The Straits Exchange Foundation has yet to release specific details of Chen’s itinerary, which on past occasions has usually been kept under wraps until the week of the visit.
The Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan, which led an earlier round of protests against Chen when he visited Taipei in December, told the Taipei Times the protests would likely be a well-organized effort, with participation from several pro-independence groups in the south.
During Chen’s stay at the Grand Hotel in December, members of the group mounted spontaneous protests at each of the locations visited by the ARATS chairman, including the National Palace Museum and the Taipei International Flora Expo.
Amid a heavy police presence, none of the protests turned violent.
“I think that when Chen Yunlin comes to the south this time, the folks here will also be more than eager to make themselves heard. They will have something to say about this visit,” said Han Ming-jung (韓明榮), the former head of pro-independence Taiwan -Southern Society.
If Chen’s visit goes ahead as scheduled, the police presence will likely be large and far--reaching, with memories of a shoving incident involving ARATS Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing (張銘清) in Tainan in October 2008 still running fresh.
Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) and Greater -Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) said they approved the visit, although both emphasized that Chen Yunlin should stay clear of politics.
Both said they had yet to be apprised of Chen Yunlin’s itinerary by the foundation.
“We will cooperate with the Straits Exchange Foundation to express our welcome,” Chen Chu said. “However, in Greater Kaohsiung, we will also respect the right of people to peacefully express any different opinions they might have.”
Senior DPP politicians have ruled out planning any protests, but said they would respect and support any spontaneous ones that did occur.
DPP spokesperson Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) said it was “a good thing” for Chen Yunlin to listen to different voices from around Taiwan, adding that “we hope Chen Yunlin and his entourage show respect as guests by not crossing any lines and making comments that harm Taiwan’s sovereignty or democracy.”