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Protesters greet Shanghai delegation

Police presence numbering in the hundreds moved to part protesters and supporters at Taipei Songshan Airport (松山機場).

One protester was carried away by authorities after shouting “get the hell out” at delegation leader Sha Hailin (沙海林).

Dozens of members of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU, 台聯), a small political party advocating Taiwan’s political independence, accused Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) of “selling out Taiwan” by meeting Sha.

Members of an indigenous peoples group from Hsinchu County held up signs welcoming Sha.

Smiling and waving at the crowd in the arrivals gate, Sha said it was “quite good” to hear diverse voices but emphasized that “many came out in support, leading me to believe that maintaining and developing cross-strait relations is the mainstream view of the Taiwanese people.”

Asked to comment on the pro-independence protesters, Sha reacted positively but also noted, “Have you noticed, many came out to welcome me. They may not make a lot of noise, but their numbers are large, and this is thrilling to me.”

Sha is part of the Shanghai Municipal Committee and a member of the United Front Work Department (UFWD, 中共中央統戰部), a special organ of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

He was received by secretary-general of the Taipei municipal government Su Li-chiung (蘇麗瓊) before a scheduled banquet hosted by Ko.

The visit is the highest level contact between Taiwan and mainland China since the new government took power.

City councilors from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will reportedly be absent from the banquet due to scheduling conflicts. Sha said that visits to DPP-led localities were conditional on “political consensus.”

The cooling of cross-strait relations since March and controversy surrounding Sha’s position as a member of the UFWD has overshadowed the cross-strait cities forum which has been held between Taipei and Shanghai since 2010.

Sha minced no words concerning the fate of cross-strait relations since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office when answering questions on whether he would bring up the “1992 Consensus” during the forum.

“Let me be clear: The political foundation for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations is known to everybody, and that is recognition of the ‘one China’ principle,” he said.

Speaking before the banquet, Ko called the cross-strait forum an important opportunity to reorient cooling ties.

“It just won’t stand if current relations between both sides remain frozen like this,” he said to reporters at Da’an Forest Park.

“Only through exchanges can there be good faith.”