Top Chinese negotiator to visit Taiwan

TAIPEI, July 23, 2010 (AFP) - A top Chinese negotiator is set to visit Taiwan next month, an official said Friday, his first visit since he was mobbed and shoved to the ground by a pro-independence crowd on the island.

Zhang Mingqing will attend an academic forum in Taipei and plans to meet his Taiwanese counterparts, said an official at Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation, which handles cross-Strait ties.

Zhang, vice president of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, will also travel to central and eastern Taiwan but will stay away from the south where the scuffle took place, said the Taipei-based China Times.

Scores of Taiwanese pro-independence activists pushed Zhang to the ground in southern Taiwan in 2008, sparking an angry response from Beijing.

China and Taiwan split in 1949 following a civil war, but Beijing still regards the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Zhang's semi-official association is authorised by Beijing to handle civilian exchanges with Taiwan in the absence of official contact between the two sides.