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Dark cross-strait clouds hang over Shanghai-Taipei forum as officials call for respect

Anti-mainland protests continued to dog a top Shanghai official in Taipei on Tuesday as an annual cross-strait city forum took place under the shadow of worsening relations between Beijing and the island.

Protesters shouted “Expel Sha Hailin” and “Expel propaganda communist” outside the hotel hosting the Shanghai-Taipei City Forum.

Three agreements between the two cities were signed on the event’s opening day, including cooperation deals on film festivals and marathons.

Pro-independence activists stage protest at airport as mainland official visits Taiwan

Sha, who is attending the forum, is a member of the Communist Party’s Standing Committee in Shanghai and head of the city’s United Front Work Department.

Addressing the conference, Sha said his trip to the island was “open and transparent” and called for mutual understanding and respect. He stressed that the forum was not being held in a “foreign city”.

He said “the political basis for peaceful development of cross-strait relations is the Chinese identity” and made explicit references to “one China” and “the 1992 consensus”, two phrases that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, has avoided.

“I believe most Taiwanese support peaceful unification and closer exchanges and cooperation between the two cities,” Sha said.

“Some Taiwanese who opposed the forum either lacked understanding of the actual situation or did it on purpose.”

Wrapping up the event, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je said the forum succeeded not because Taipei acknowledged the “one China” principle but because of friendship between the two cities.

“When we understand and respect Beijing’s insistence on some aspects, we hope Beijing can understand and respect Taiwan’s insistence on democracy and freedom,” Ko said.

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Sha is the highest-level mainland official to visit Taiwan since Tsai took office in May 20. Cross-strait exchanges were cut amid Beijing’s demand that Taipei recognise the “1992 consensus”, an understanding that both sides acknowledge there is only one China, but each has its own interpretation of what that means.

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Katharine Chang said Taiwan’s new government had a different understanding of the “1992 consensus” from that held by the previous Kuomintang ­government.

Chang said peaceful development of cross-strait ties should comply with various statutes, including the island’s constitution.