With several hundred police officers providing security, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) yesterday visited the Taipei Zoo’s Panda Hall and took a ride at the nearby Maokong Gondola after arriving in Taipei to prepare for cross-strait talks today.
However, tight security failed to block protesters, with several Taiwan Solidarity Union members carrying placards while shouting: “Investment protection agreement does not protect Taiwan” and “Taiwan and China, one country on each side,” during the visit by Chen and the Chinese delegation to the Zoo’s Panda Hall.
Ignoring the protests, Chen, accompanied by Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), visited the two giant pandas sent by China as a gift in 2008, Tuan Tuan (團團) and Yuan Yuan (圓圓), and then took a ride along the Maokong Gondola.
Chen lauded the zoo and the Taipei City Government for taking care of the two pandas and said cross-strait exchanges on animal conservation would promote cross-strait relations.
“There are so many places I want to visit in Taipei City, but I particularly miss Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan. I traveled to Sichuan many times to help arrange for the two pandas [to be sent to Taiwan]. Although we’ve sent pandas to other countries, these two pandas carried more significance because they symbolize our [cross-strait] friendship,” he said.
The pair were selected from 23 panda cubs early in 2006 by China as a gift to Taiwan following the meeting between former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in 2005.
The pandas have become some of the zoo’s most popular animals.
Hau said the zoo would continue in its efforts to breed a “next generation” of pandas, adding that he expected cross-strait tourism to prosper with further cross-strait exchanges.
Hau later presented Chen with a vase decorated with panda patterns. In return, Chen gave Hau a vase featuring flowers.
The city government later arranged for Chen to ride in the Maokong Gondola along with his delegation.
The hot weather appeared to make the ride less pleasant and Chen was spotted using a fan to cool off inside the cable car.
Chen and his delegation had originally planned to visit Hualien, but canceled their trip following the passage of Typhoon Saola.
The Chinese envoy will visit other locations in Taipei tomorrow following a meeting with Chiang today.