Delegation of Chinese officials make rare visit to Taiwan

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A group of officials from Shanghai arrived in Taiwan on Saturday for the first visit to the island by Chinese politicians since 2020, as scores of activists gathered in protest.

“China get out,” shouted some demonstrators outside Taipei’s airport, holding signs reading “Taiwan, China, separate countries” in protest against Beijing’s claim that self-ruled Taiwan is part of its territory.

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Exchanges between the two sides were significantly reduced due to border controls during the coronavirus pandemic but contact was rare even before COVID owing to rising tensions.

Taiwan reopened its border in October but still imposed tighter rules on Chinese citizens including barring tourists.

The six-member delegation, led by Li Xiaodong, deputy head in charge of Taiwan affairs in Shanghai, did not comment to the media upon arrival at the airport.

Their host, the Taipei city government, said the group will tour a lantern festival celebrating the Lunar New Year as well as cultural facilities in a “low-key and simple” three-day visit.

Some of the protesters said they hoped the Chinese officials would “learn” about Taiwan’s democracy during the trip.

“We are here to welcome a Communist Party politician from Shanghai. We want to welcome him to our free and democratic Taiwan, and hope he will learn what freedom and democracy are,” Song Jen-he, 68, told AFP.

Beijing has ramped up military, democratic and economic pressure on Taiwan under President Xi Jinping, who has said “reunification” with Taiwan must not be passed on to future generations.

Tensions reached their most intense in decades after Beijing staged massive military drills around Taiwan in August to protest against a visit to Taipei by then US House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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