Chinese official arrives in Taiwan on unprecedented visit (update 2) - Focus Taiwan

Chinese official arrives in Taiwan on unprecedented visit (update 2)

Taipei, June 25 (CNA) The head of the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) under China's State Council arrived in Taiwan Wednesday for a four-day visit, the first such visit by China's top official in charge of ties with Taiwan.

Zhang Zhijun landed before noon at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, which was under tight security as some pro-Taiwan independence groups had vowed to protest his arrival and visit.

Zhang greeted officials waiting at the airport, including Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Deputy Minister Chang Hsien-yao.

"How is everybody doing," he said in Taiwanese, explaining that the very first thing he wanted to do was to greet Taiwanese people using the local language.

Zhang said he had two priorities during his trip -- the first to hold a second formal meeting with his Taiwanese counterpart, MAC Minister Wang Yu-chi, after the two met in China this February, and the second to engage in direct dialogue with ordinary Taiwanese.

The Chinese official said most of his knowledge about Taiwan came from books and secondhand information, and he wanted to hear different voices to get to know Taiwanese society, which is known for its diversity.

There remain many challenges and difficulties in cross-strait affairs, but they can be settled as long as the two sides work together, Zhang said.

One of the groups waiting for Zhang at the airport, consisting of Chinese spouses of Taiwanese citizens, welcomed him, chanting slogans such as "the two sides are one family -- welcome, Zhang," and "the more exchanges, the closer the two sides become."

But there were also groups of protesters on hand, and clashes broke out between them and the police. Representatives from the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) jostled with police while displaying billboards reading: "Zhang Zhijun get lost."

When TSU members tried to elaborate upon their opinions that Taiwan's future is in the hands of its 23 million people, violence erupted as some unidentified young men wearing black shirts rushed forward to interrupt the TSU's appeal.

Zhang is scheduled to meet with Wang Wednesday afternoon. The MAC has said that the meeting could touch on such issues as bilateral trade, participation in regional economic blocs, and the establishment of reciprocal offices in Taiwan and China.

In addition to their meeting in Taoyuan County in northern Taiwan, Wang and Zhang are scheduled to hold a more informal closed-door chat in the southern city of Kaohsiung on June 27, according to the MAC.

Zhang is also set to travel to the cities of New Taipei and Taichung and to Changhua County.

Plans are for him to meet with Chinese spouses in Taiwan and with representatives of indigenous peoples, university students, farmers and fishermen, the MAC said.

(By Chiu Chun-chin, Bien Chin-feng and Lee Hsin-Yin)ENDITEM/ls/J/ls

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