Taipei, Aug 8, 2012 (AFP) - A top Chinese negotiator was greeted by both protesters and pandas when he arrived in Taiwan Wednesday to sign a key investment deal further cementing ties between the former rivals.
Demonstrators were seen at almost all spots along the route of Chen Yunlin's itinerary in Taipei, from the airport to his hotel and on to the city's zoo where he visited a pair of giant pandas gifted by China.
Chen is due to seal the much-awaited investment protection pact with his Taiwanese counterpart Chiang Pin-kung on Thursday, during the eighth round of talks between the pair.
Details of the agreement will only be released after it has been signed, but it has been designed to boost the protection of investors on both sides and is likely therefore to lead to increased funding flows.
Outside Chiang's office, dozens of protesters held banners reading "Chiang-Chen meeting sells out Taiwan" and "Taiwan independence", signalling their opposition to the investment agreement.
Critics warn the deal will further strengthen China's hold over Taiwan, which it still claims as part of its territory awaiting unification, even though the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.
"China is using its economic power to gradually take over Taiwan, and our government sacrifices public interests to satisfy the needs of individual businessmen," said Hsiao Kwan-yu, an organiser of the protest.
"China is pushing for its unification under the banner of (promoting) the economy, but we are letting the wolf into our home."
He warned that the deal would lead to a "hollowing out" of the island's economy as funding, talent and technology shifted to the mainland.
Taiwan and China remained implacable enemies for decades after their split, even after the island's businesses started exploring opportunities across the strait.
However, ties have improved markedly since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan's president in 2008 on a Beijing-friendly platform, leading to the signing of 16 agreements between the two sides to boost trade and civil exchanges.