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September 25, 2017

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TAO's Zhang concludes historic visit to Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Beijing's top Taiwan policymaker concluded his four-day ground-breaking visit yesterday, leaving the island with most of his last-day itinerary cancelled amid protests.

Zhang Zhijun, who heads Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), was apparently in a good mood as he showed up at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to catch a flight taking him back home late in the afternoon.

"It definitely won't be my last visit" to Taiwan, Zhang said when asked whether he would set foot in Taiwan again.

He had been scheduled to visit a fishing port in Kaohsiung, a historic building in Taichung and a famous Matsu temple in Lugang before concluding his trip, but they were all canceled to avoid protesters.

Zhang had insisted that the Lugang temple trip would go ahead, but had to call it off after a melee broke out there with at least one protester injured ahead of his arrival.

Zhang had been dogged by protests since he arrived on Wednesday to become the first TAO head to make an official visit across the Taiwan Strait.

Despite tight protection from police, Zhang's motorcade was blocked by protesters during his trip to National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung on Friday. Some protesters splashed white paint on his car and his bodyguards.

In a closed-door meeting with his Taiwan counterpart, Wang Yu-chi, Zhang reportedly said he appreciated the hospitality that the Taiwanese people had shown him despite the constant protests.

Wang, head of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), noted that protests are part and parcel of life in Taiwan, which tolerates different opinions, according to the United Evening News.

The newspaper said the pair looked serious during their meeting as they discussed political issues.

Wang reportedly told Zhang that Beijing should not try to rush Taipei to the negotiation table for political talks at this moment.

Instead, China should show more friendliness toward Taiwan, reducing the number of missiles targeting the island and giving it more space in the international community, Wang said.

China has often emphasized the amount of economic benefits Taiwan will be receiving from cross-strait trade, but Taiwan's people are acutely aware of the Chinese stance demonstrated by the missile threat and diplomatic strangulation, Wang said.

Taiwan's people have sufficient information and wisdom to decide whether China is truly friendly to the island or whether it has a hidden agenda, the MAC chief said.

Wang said China could remove the missiles and give Taiwan more diplomatic space unilaterally without having to sign any political agreements.

Referring to the protests in Kaohsiung, Wang told Zhang that the people in Southern Taiwan are usually very friendly, and they repay friendliness with friendliness. They are also apt to repay unfriendliness with unfriendliness.

Observers said the meeting between Wang and Zhang has set the tone for future cross-strait relations, and more and more official interactions between the two sides can be expected.

Cross-strait ties have been handled by semi-official bodies representing Taipei and Beijing respectively.

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