Pro-independence protesters in southern Taiwan pushed an envoy from rival China to the ground on Tuesday while shouting that their island does not belong to Beijing.
The attack on Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait was shown on television news broadcasts and comes amid improving relations between Beijing and Taipei under the administration of new Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou.
Ma was elected in March after promising to turn the corner on the pro-independence policies of predecessor Chen Shui-bian and seek expanded trade and political relations with China, from which Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949.
China continues to claim the island as part of its territory and has threatened to invade if it ever moves toward formal independence.
Surrounded at temple commemorating Confucius
Pictures from Taiwan TV stations showed about a dozen protesters surrounding Zhang at a Tainan temple commemorating Confucius, then toppling him to the ground while shouting anti-communist and pro-independence slogans.
"Taiwan does not belong to China," protesters shouted.
Zhang was helped to his feet by an escort and rushed to a waiting vehicle. A middle-aged man stomped and banged on the vehicle but did not attempt to prevent it from leaving the scene.
The attack on Zhang comes several weeks before a planned visit by Chen Yun-lin, Zhang's boss and the point man in pushing for unity across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait.
Mass protest planned
On Saturday, the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party is scheduled to hold a mass rally in Taipei to protest Ma's China policies, which include regular direct flights between the sides and liberalized conditions for Chinese investment on Taiwan.
The DPP says Ma's approach is undermining Taiwan's sovereignty and putting the island's de facto independence and its democratic political system at risk.
Ma says better trade relations with China are necessary to bring Taiwan closer into the international economy. He has promised not to discuss the issue of unity with the mainland during his presidency.