Chen Yulin ends historic visit
By WILLIAM FOREMAN, AP November 7, 2008, 11:55 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The most senior Communist Chinese official to visit Taiwan bid farewell to the island Friday, saying his historic trip was a success but that the rivals had a long road to travel toward better relations.
The official, Chen Yunlin, signed a landmark trade deal during his five-day trip, but his mission also sparked daily street protests that were often violent.
Before he left for the airport, Chen thanked the thousands of police who were deployed in the capital, Taipei, to protect him. In a possible dig at the protesters, Chen assured the Taiwanese that if they visit China, they will see "harmony everywhere."
At the airport, a supporter of the Falun Gong spiritual group - which China has banned as an "evil cult" - slipped past security and yelled at Chen's departing entourage, "Stop persecuting Falun Gong!"
Chen also declared that his visit was a big success for both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the 100-mile-wide (160-kilometer-wide) body of water between the rivals that split amid civil war in 1949.
"We have successfully accomplished this memorable voyage and will return to Beijing," he said. "We have completed the mission that people across the strait have long desired and have handed over to us.
During his trip, Chen focused on economics and trade. He refused to discuss the thorny political that have blocked the rivals from talking for decades. But he acknowledged that major differences still exist between the two sides.
"We believe the future road is long but we will shoulder it and face up to this and that difficulty," he said. "We will do our best to contribute to the welfare of the people across the strait."
Chen's Taiwanese counterpart, Chiang Pin-kung, also declared that the trip was successful.
"Our efforts weren't wasted," Chiang said. "We will continue to strive for our ultimate goal of peace across the strait and a win-win economic situation."
The trade deal signed Tuesday established shipping links across the strait and tripled the number of flights between the rivals. It also included measures designed to boost cooperation on food safety issues.
Chiang noted that polls in two of Taiwan's biggest newspapers Friday reported that the public was pleased with Chen's visit.
The China Times reported that 49.9 percent of those polled thought Chen's visit would have a positive effect on Taiwan's development. The survey said 22 percent thought the effect would be negative, while the rest had no opinion or thought the visit wouldn't make a difference.
The telephone poll, conducted on Thursday evening, involved 711 adult respondents and had a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.
Another poll in the mass-market United Daily News reported that 52 percent approved of the meeting, while 18 percent thought it was negative. The rest had no opinion or thought the effect would be both positive and negative. The paper said the telephone survey, conducted Thursday, involved 863 adults. The margin of error was 3.2 percentage points.
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