Security on alert for island talks

By Xing Zhigang in Beijing and Tong Hao, Hu Meidong in Fuzhou (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-11 07:02

A senior Taiwan negotiator Thursday pledged to ensure the safety and dignity for Beijing's top envoy when he visits the island for the upcoming cross-Straits talks.

Chen Yunlin, president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), will hold their highly anticipated discussions from Dec 21-25 in the island city of Taichung.

The frame and scope of the discussions were finalized by Kao Koong-lian, SEF vice-chairman, and Zheng Lizhong, ARATS vice-president, who met Thursday in Fuzhou, capital of East China's Fujian province.

"(Chen's) visit will be arranged under the principles of safety, convenience and dignity," Kao told reporters Thursday. "Our security departments have made the utmost preparations and I believe there will be no problems."

Negotiations between the two organizations will occur specifically on Dec 22-23, after which Chen's delegation will tour central Taiwan.

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Talks between Chen and Chiang will be the fourth since relations between the two sides began to improve last year.

Safety was an issue for Chen last November when he was trapped in a Taipei hotel by protestors of Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for more than three hours ahead of high-level meetings.

After the anticipated visit was announced Thursday, several pro-independence groups promised to stage the largest demonstration ever in Taichung to greet the mainland delegation.

Lin Yi-cheng, an organizer of the protest, said he and his followers will hold rallies wherever the mainland delegation goes during its stay in Taiwan.

Taiwan media reported earlier that Taichung authorities will deploy more than 5,000 police, with 40 bodyguards for Chen, to ensure a smooth visit.

A mainland delegation, led by ARATS vice president Zheng Lizhong, will arrive in Taiwan on Dec 18 to make final arrangements for Chen's visit.

Zheng said Thursday that negotiations will focus on four topics: avoidance of double taxation, inspection of farming produce, cooperation in the fisheries industry, and industry standards certification.

But a proposed trade pact across the Straits, or the so-called economic co-operation framework agreement (ECFA), will not be negotiated, much less inked, in the fourth round of negotiations, according to the island's "mainland affairs council."

Council chief Lai Shin-yuan said Thursday in Taipei that Chiang and Chen are expected to agree on possible talks on the signing of the ECFA in a fifth round of talks. It is uncertain when the fifth round of talks will be held.