11 Nov 2008

Taiwanese protests force Chinese groups to cancel visits

7:32 am on 11 November 2008

Three official groups from China have cancelled plans to visit Taiwan because of violent political protests last week directed against Beijing's top negotiator to the island nation.

The Nationalist Party says they they are not coming "in the short term" because of safety concerns.

But a Chinese government spokesman, Li Weiyi, was quoted by Xinhua news agency as denying there had been any suspension of official trips to Taiwan.

"Cross-strait exchanges cannot be damaged by a minority of people, and will only get closer," he said. "Yet it cannot be ruled out that some individuals may defer visits to Taiwan, though this is up to the individual."

China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's KMT fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

In a sign of the improving relations since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May, Beijing's top negotiator, Chen Yunlin, visited the island last week. It was the highest-level encounter of its kind in Taipei in 60 years.

But thousands protested throughout the visit from 3-7 November. Protesters threw objects at police and tried to enter hotels where Mr Chen was staying or holding meetings.