TAIPEI, Taiwan – Hundreds of Taiwanese protesters surrounded a hotel Wednesday where a Chinese envoy was attending a dinner banquet, tossing eggs and trying to block his car from driving away.
Some opposition lawmakers sat down in the driveway of the Grand Formosa Regent and briefly stopped traffic before police dragged them away.
Chen Yunlin, the highest-ranking Communist Chinese official to ever visit Taiwan, has drawn daily protests since his five-day trip began Monday.
Chen came to sign a trade agreement with Taiwan that many believe will greatly ease tensions between the rivals. But many of the protesters distrust Beijing and oppose closer ties with the island's biggest security threat.
Relations have been tense between China and Taiwan ever since the Communists won a bloody civil war in 1949 and took over the mainland. Beijing insists that Taiwan must eventually unify with the motherland or endure a devastating attack.
Many of the approximately 800 protesters Wednesday night supported permanent independence, and they chanted, "Taiwan and China are both countries!" Some wore long yellow ribbons that said, "Taiwan is my country."
One of the most anticipated — and possibly most awkward — events left on Chen's schedule comes Thursday when he meets Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou. There has been much speculation about whether Chen will address Ma by his formal title, "president."
It's a touchy issue for the Chinese envoy because the communist leadership doesn't formally recognize Taiwan's government. Beijing insists Taiwan is a province of China, and Chinese provinces don't have presidents.
But by not using the formal title, Chen will likely anger many Taiwanese. They are fiercely proud of their democracy and economy, which boasts several world-class tech companies.
Basic Chinese etiquette also dictates that guests must show respect to their hosts, and this is done by using proper titles.
The issue involves much more than manners and political semantics, said Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.
"People feel anxious especially when we have to wonder whether the president, Taiwan's democratically elected president, will be addressed as president," she said.
"If he (Ma) cannot even defend his own title, what can he defend for us?" she added.
The United Evening News reported Wednesday that Chen was unlikely to use Ma's official title. The daily paper was betting on the use of the term "Taiwan's highest leader."
Ma has tried to downplay the issue and has said he wouldn't mind being called "Mr. Ma." He said if he went to Beijing, he would address Chinese President Hu Jintao as "Mr. Hu."