Taiwan President’s U.S. visit sparks economic protest, China refutes allegation of protesters being paid

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31st March 2023 – (New York) Protests opposed to the US visit of Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen continued on Thursday in New York City. The protests were organized by local Chinese communities and attended by over 100 people. Many of the protestors called for a focus on economic issues instead of helping to arm Taiwan and agitate for its independence.

Protestors waved Chinese and American national flags and held signs saying, “There is only one China in the world”, “Support China’s reunification and resolutely oppose Taiwan independence” and “Taiwan independence has no way out; Taiwan independence is a dead end”. Many of them were from Fujian province, a province on the southeast coast of China, and feel that Tsai’s “transit” hurts their feelings.

“We should do business with China, and get a booming economy, lifting people out of poverty. Imagine if American companies and Chinese companies can team up, we can get richer as a country,” said Caleb Maupin, who was amongst the protestors. Maupin added, “Tsai Ing-wen here is to sell a war, and we Americans don’t want that war. We love our country, we want jobs and schools for Americans, not more weapons to Taiwan, not a new war against China.”

On Thursday, a senior Taiwan official alleged Chinese authorities were paying people to attend the protests. However, the deputy Chinese Consul General in New York Qian Jin refuted the claim and said the protests were spontaneous. “There’s no need of involvement of the Chinese consulate” in the demonstrations, said Qian. “It’s a reflection and demonstration of the real needs and heart of the Chinese communities here.”

Taiwan’s National Security Bureau also alleged that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) paid pro-China group members and gangsters US$200 each to protest President Tsai Ing-wen’s arrival in New York. However, Qian dismissed the allegations as baseless.

“It doesn’t look like a private visit; it is not so much a transit,” said Qian. He said it would be the first time the Biden administration allowed the “transit” of Tsai Ing-wen. It would also be the first time for the US House speaker to meet Tsai on US soil if it happens, and the first time for Tsai to give public speeches in the U.S..

“If all these are the case, how can you call it a transit? I think it’s just using the name of transit to seek official interactions with the US to make a breakthrough and seek to propagate Taiwan independence,” said Qian.

Chi Tai, president of Chinese for Peaceful Unification-Northern California, said Tsai has never considered the consequences of her visit. “What Tsai is doing will not bring safety to Taiwan. It will only provoke more tensions. It will not do any good to the Taiwan people,” Tai told China Daily.

On the other hand, Tsai reportedly plans to meet with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles, which indicates growing support for Taiwan from the U.S.. This has also drawn criticism from China, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has been increasing pressure on other countries to not recognise Taiwan diplomatically.

Overall, the protests against Tsai’s visit to the US reflect the ongoing tensions between China and Taiwan. While some protestors believe that a focus on economic issues would benefit both countries, others see Tsai’s visit as a provocation that will only lead to further tensions.