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Thousands in Taiwan March Against China


Tens of thousands of people marched through Taiwan's capital Saturday to protest the island's warming ties with Beijing.

The demonstrators marched through Taipei's streets waving flags and chanting slogans protesting the upcoming visit of Beijing's top negotiator and voicing anger at a series of Chinese export scandals, including tainted milk products.

The size of the crowd had not been confirmed, but the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which organized the rally, was expecting half-a-million people to hit the streets.

On Thursday, DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said the upcoming talks with Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin will push Taiwan further in the direction of unification. Tsai said, in her words, that is "not something a democratic society would like to see."

Chen, who heads China's top government body on relations with Taiwan (the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits), is scheduled tentatively to hold talks with Taiwanese officials on November third. The two sides are expected to discuss expanding transportation and cargo links.

The Chinese government says the talks will go ahead, despite a scuffle between Chen's deputy and pro-independence activists in Taiwan.

On Wednesday, Chen's deputy, Zhang Mingqing, cut short a private visit to Taiwan after he was accosted by protesters and pushed to the ground. Officials in both Taiwan and China have condemned the attack.

Since his election in March, Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has tried to improve ties between the two by focusing on enhancing trade and exchanges and avoiding the tougher political issue of sovereignty.

In June, the two sides agreed to open regular direct weekend charter flights for the first time in decades. They also agreed to allow more Chinese tourists to visit the island.

Taiwan and China split at the end of a civil war in 1949, but relations have improved somewhat in recent years. China claims that self-ruled Taiwan is part of its own territory, that could be retaken by force if necessary.

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