Protests in Taiwan as Ma leaves for meet with Xi
TAIPEI, Taiwan – Angry protesters tried to storm parliament in Taiwan overnight Saturday, November 7 as the island's leader Ma Ying-jeou left for a historic summit in Singapore with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Xi and Ma will shake hands at a luxury hotel in Singapore around 3 pm (0700 GMT) before holding talks behind closed doors for an hour.
It is a deeply symbolic seal on a dramatic seven-year rapprochement under Ma following decades of hostility, but has provoked a backlash in Taiwan.
Closer ties with China have sparked fears over Beijing's growing influence with Ma's opponents accusing him of selling out Taiwan by attending the summit.
Although it is a self-ruling democracy with a fierce sense of its own identity, Taiwan has never formally declared independence from Beijing, which sees it as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Overnight around 100 protesters tried to storm the heavily-guarded parliament building in Taipei carrying "Taiwan independence" banners, but were stopped by police. There were no arrests. (READ: What's in a name? Taiwan question endures internationally)
A dozen were still staging a sit-in outside parliament early Saturday morning.
Protesters also gathered at Taipei's Songshan airport where Ma gave a brief address to reporters before boarding his flight Saturday morning.
The demonstrators burned images of the two leaders with slogans calling Xi "Chinese dictator" and Ma a "traitor".
"As a president who doesn't represent public opinion, Ma doesn't have the right to meet with the leader across the strait," said one 35-year-old who gave his name as Chen.
Police said some protesters were arrested but could not immediately give numbers.
A small group of Ma supporters were also at the airport.
"The purpose of the meeting is to recount the past, look forward to the future and, through the meeting, reinforce peace across the strait and maintain (the) status quo," Ma told reporters before he left.
He added the summit would be a "new platform" for any future president of Taiwan to continue to develop cross-strait relations.
Critics have accused Ma of arranging the summit in secret as a bid to boost the ruling Kuomintang's chances at January elections, which it is tipped to lose.
Support for the KMT and for Ma personally has plunged, partly due to a China-friendly policy. – Rappler.com