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22december200911Chen Yunlin, Chinese chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) was confronted today by shouting Taiwanese and Tibetan people upon his arrival in Taichung, Taiwan to negotiate for a landmark free trade pact.  The protesters fear that the Taiwanese government’s warming ties with China will condone human rights abuse in Tibet, and possibly endanger Taiwanese democracy as well.

Reuters reported that on Sunday, the day before Mr. Chen’s arrival, thousands of “noisy marchers distrustful of communist China's intentions for Taiwan walked for hours along roads in Taichung in the centre of the export-reliant, self-ruled island China claims as its own.”

Taiwanese negotiator P.K. Chiang and China's Chen Yunlin are meeting today in Taichung for talks on the proposed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a pact aimed at slashing import tariffs and opening the banking sector that should be signed next year.

Tuesday's talks will be the fourth round since China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office last year.

"We're opposed to the secret meeting, the non-transparent meeting between China and Taiwan, because it could bring steep losses to Taiwan," said protester Ho Shih-sen, 59, a retiree in Taichung.

Organisers said 100,000 people attended the march on Sunday. Local police put the figure at 10,000.

22december200912Protests during China-Taiwan talks in Taipei last year sparked rioting in which police and demonstrators were injured.

Among the protesters were hardliners who want Taiwan to declare formal independence from China. Some waved banners advocating "one side, one country."

Some feared the ECFA would lead to a flood of competing goods from China, calling for open talks and for Ma to step down.

"Ma Ying-jeou, our president, wants to sign ECFA but hasn't received public approval for it," said protester Charles Lee, president of an environmental group in southern Taiwan.

"We're worried he will sell us out."

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