The group of six Chinese officials allowed in by the city of Taipei were lead by Liu Xiaodong, the deputy head of the Shanghai office of China's Taiwan Affairs Office. The group of CCP officials were invited to attend the Lantern Festival, an annual event hosted by the Tourism Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, reported Reuters.
According to reports, around "a dozen pro-Taiwan independence supporters" met Liu and his group outside of the Songshan airport, with phrases such as "Chinese people get out" and "Taiwan and China, separate countries." Pro-China demonstrators were also there for the arrival of the Chinese officials, expressing their welcome.
The Chinese group were reportedly ushered away into a secured van before they were able to take any questions from the press.
Mayor of Taipei, Chiang Wan-an, told reporters that the city has "very much welcomed" the representatives from China for the cultural event. Chiang's political party, the Kuomintang, has anti-communism written in the charter, however they are seen as being more friendly to China than other political movements in Taiwan. As Reuters reports, they generally favor "close relations" with the mainland country.
Chiang said the group's schedule as set by the government's Mainland Affairs Council will be "low-key, simple, and secure."
According to the Mainland Affairs Council, which sets Taiwan's policy in regards to relations with China, allowed the Chinese officials to attend the festival as long as they keep the visit low-key, and hoped the trip would foster a mutual understanding between the two sides and "healthy and orderly exchanges."
Chilly Chen, the leader of the pro-independence Taiwan Republic Office, said that the Taiwanese are hospitable to Chinese officials, but worried about the political ramifications of their visit.
"Everything China does is in the service of politics, and their aim is definitely a united front," Chen said to Reuters, referencing the "united front" political strategy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to influence people to further their interests.
The Chinese government has refused to communicate with Taiwan's federal government since President Tsai Ing-we, a pro-independence leader, won the seat in 2016. However, city-to-city relations remained intact until they were interrupted by Covid lockdowns. Now, Taipei has once again begun opening its doors to Chinese officials.
The visit comes as the Chinese government continues to carry out military activities near the island, including pushing the line with nearly daily crossings of the Taiwan Strait's unofficial barrier by air force jets. Tensions between the two governments have risen in recent months, as uncertainty with the CCP and the US has also caused some concern.
Over the last couple of weeks, multiple devices suspected of being Chinese surveillance balloons have been downed across the US and Canada, with at least one other being spotted over Latin America. Chinese officials have repeatedly demanded for the debris to be returned to China, as well as claimed that the US has sent their own balloons into their airspace.
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