February 25, 2011 / 6:24 AM / 9 years ago

"Jasmine" protests greet Chinese envoy in Taiwan

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwanese protesters threw flowers at a motorcade carrying China’s top envoy to the island and tried to deliver plastic jasmine flowers and jasmine juice to him as he visited Taiwan’s strongly pro-independence south.

In a reference to calls in China for a “Jasmine Revolution” like those that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, dozens of protesters wearing headbands with the words “respect,” “jasmine” and “peace” decked security barriers with white flowers outside the envoy’s hotel in the city of Kaohsiung.

They also sang a Chinese folk song entitled “Jasmine,” though the flowers they carried were white chrysanthemums because jasmine is not in season in the Taiwan winter. Some scuffled briefly with police Friday.

Chen Yunlin, head of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait and China’s top negotiator with Taiwan, is visiting the island with a 50-strong business delegation as economic ties between the political foes burgeon.

A landmark trade deal last year brought ties to their best level in the 60 years since Taiwan’s current ruling Nationalists lost a civil war to the communists and retreated to Taiwan.

China claims the self-ruled island as its own and suspicion is strong in Taiwan over the true motive behind the mainland’s aggressive push to develop business and economic ties.

Thursday, access to the networking site LinkedIn was disrupted in China, following online calls on other sites for protests, while a Chinese official dismissed the idea that China could succumb to the kind of unrest rocking authoritarian governments across the Middle East.

It is Chen’s first visit to Taiwan’s south, where support for the opposition party and the independence movement is strongest. The visit is seen as an attempt to spread China’s message beyond the relative safety of Taiwan’s north, the heartland of ruling party support.

Chen’s delegation will visit two other areas of southern Taiwan before returning to Taipei. The group will leave on Feb 28.

Reporting by Jonathan Standing, Editing by Yoko Nishikawa

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