TAIPEI--Protests continued between police and supporters of Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) into the early hours of Friday, as Beijing's envoy Chen Yunlin left the island.
Days of protests by opponents of eventual reunification with China culminated in violent clashes between police and protesters that left more than 110 people injured, according to officials and local media.
About 2,200 riot police backed by water cannon were dispatched to Taipei's Grand Hotel where Chen was staying to control 1,000 rowdy protesters, police said.
Chen is the most senior Chinese official to visit the island since it split from China at the end of the civil war between Mao Zedong's communists and the National Kuomintang (KMT) party of Chiang Kai-shek.
Dodging angry protesters throwing eggs, rocks, bottled water and petrol bombs at barricades, Chen met KMT President Ma Ying-jeou Thursday. Around a dozen demonstrators are believed to have been detained in the clashes, which left several policemen bleeding from head injuries according to footage recorded at the scene.
A total of 64 officers were hurt in the clashes, while local media said more than 50 protesters and journalists were also injured.
Police handling of the protests also gave rise to demonstrations by college students, who staged a sit-in outside government buildings in Taipei. DPP politicians have accused the KMT of sending agents provocateurs into the crowds to stir up violence and blacken the image of the pro-independence, or "green," camp.
Chen's visit yielded four cooperation accords in the areas of air travel, post, and cargo shipping, amid fears that they might lead to the export of jobs and industries across the Taiwan Strait to China. Such exports began in the 1990s, forcing the island to upgrade its product quality and service industries to remain competitive.
President Ma, whose party supports eventual reunification with a more democratic China, said his administration might avoid a referendum on the issue of warmer ties with Beijing.
"We do not necessarily have to use referendums as a method. We have to look at the gravity of the issue," he told Taiwan's China Television (CTV).
"For example, presidential elections are a kind of referendum, right?...I do not think such a referendum will be held during my term."
Ma said opinion polls in Taiwan over the past two decades showed that the majority of people on the island want to maintain the status quo without declaring formal independence, a move which China says would spark military action.
DPP blamed for tensions
Ma said the opposition DPP should take responsibility for the escalation of tensions during Chen's visit. But he added that better communications could have been provided between Chen and the DPP, including having the mainland envoy visit DPP headquarters.
Meanwhile, Chen, president of the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), arrived back in Beijing to triumphant comments from Beijing officials.
"Chen and the whole delegation have fulfilled their historic task," said Wang Yi, director of both the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.
"Cross-Straits relations have a bright future that people never conceived before as a result of the systematic talks between ARATS and its Taiwan counterpart, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF)," he said.
"We all know that there is still a tough path ahead, but no one can cut off the close connection between compatriots on both sides of the Straits that exists in our blood," Wang said. "Neither can anyone stop the eager exchanges between us nor reverse the trend towards peaceful development," the official Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Hu Hanqiang and in Cantonese by Ho Shan. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.