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Taiwan’s vice president makes controversial visit to Bay Area amid protests

Taiwan's Vice President Lai Ching-te stands outside the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame on Wednesday. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

Finishing a diplomatic trip from South America, Taiwan’s Vice President Lai Ching-te arrived in the Bay Area for a brief stay before heading back home. But the quick stop was not without drama.

On Wednesday afternoon, as Lai landed at San Francisco International Airport, pro-China protesters had already gathered in the Hyatt Regency hotel in Burlingame, where Lai planned to greet local Taiwanese American community members.

Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching-te greets people at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame on Wednesday. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

At about 4:30 p.m., Lai arrived at the hotel to meet with supporters, as protesters chanted “get out” across the street. Lai did not speak with the media.

Lai is a major candidate for next year’s presidential election in Taiwan, and his visit to the U.S. has attracted opposition from China and attention from far beyond the Bay Area. As a leader of the Democratic Progressive Party, Lai’s pro-independence stance has angered Beijing—which sees Taiwan as a renegade province—as well as local pro-China groups.

Chu Wen Huang, the organizer of the protest and a former Chinatown leader, said that multiple pro-reunification groups from all over the West Coast have come together to protest Lai.

“We firmly oppose the independence of Taiwan,” Huang said. “And Lai Ching-te is a stubborn supporter of Taiwan’s independence.”

Pro-China protestors stand and chant across the street of the Hyatt Regency as they wait for Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching-te to arrive in Burlingame on Wednesday. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

San Francisco’s Chinese consulate posted an article on its WeChat account Wednesday citing that China opposes all forms of official interactions between the U.S. and Taiwan. Further, China emphasized that the issue is an “uncrossable” red line.

On the other side, about 200 supporters from the local Taiwanese American community showed up to support Lai’s arrival.

Katie Hsieh, the chair of the U.S.-based Taiwan Tech Summit, was among the crowd. She supports Lai coming to the U.S. to help increase Taiwan’s international presence.

“As an overseas Taiwanese in America, I must come to support him,” Hsieh said. “Let the world see Taiwan.”

After the greeting, Lai was set to speak at a banquet in a nearby hotel in Burlingame. His flight to Taiwan is scheduled for early Thursday morning.

Han Li can be reached at han@sfstandard.com

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