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Protest looms over island talks

The threat of a large-scale protest of nearly 100,000, employing flash mobs and remote-controlled planes, was announced by Taiwan"s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to possibly thwart the anticipated cross-Straits talks next week.

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Chen Yunlin, president of the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), will meet Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of the Taipei-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), for the fourth round of talks Dec 21-25 in the city of Taichung.

ARATS and SEF, semi-official bodies set up to deal with cross-Straits issues, resumed negotiations in June 2008 after a 10-year suspension of talks.

The DPP, the island"s opposition party, has warned of a mass protest because it is against the ruling Kuomintang"s (KMT) push for closer ties with the Chinese mainland.

Protest organizers plan to assemble 100 taxis to cut off transportation around the venue for the talks. Fifty remote-controlled model planes could hover over the venue, the Taipei-based Central News Agency reported. What the planes would do was not detailed.

Late last year, Chen"s appearance on the island sparked violent protests in the streets of Taipei when he visited for talks.

Chen and Chiang are expected to sign four cross-Straits agreements on fishery cooperation, inspection and quarantine of agricultural products, industrial standard measurement authentication and avoidance of double taxation.

In anticipation of Chen"s visit, the DPP had initially announced a march on Dec 20 in Taichung to protest the proposed signing of a cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).

The DPP decided that the demonstration will be extended to cover the first three days of Chen"s stay in Taichung, to highlight the "unreasonableness" of the talks, DPP officials said yesterday.

Although none of the issues for the talks appear to be politically sensitive, the DPP seems to be gathering momentum against the proposed ECFA, saying it is a conspiracy by the KMT and Chinese mainland to harm Taiwan"s interests and "sovereignty".

The DPP has warned that the agreement, which could be signed next year, will cost 1.6 million jobs, or nearly 15 percent of the island"s total labor force.

However, the KMT has argued that the agreement will speed up exchanges with the Chinese mainland and help lift the economic growth of the island.

Ties across the straits have improved markedly since last year after Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT became the island"s leader.

SEF chairman Chiang Pin-kung has called for a calm response to the upcoming talks.

Chiang said issues to be discussed during the talks are closely related to the health and benefit of people in both regions, adding that he hoped agreements could be reached to improve the foundation of relations.

Xinhua contributed to the story

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