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Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou to visit L.A.'s Chinatown today

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is expected to arrive Tuesday afternoon in L.A.'s Chinatown to greet supporters and visit local Chinese community associations.

The public appearance, unusual for a leader of Taiwan, is a sign of the country's improving relationship with the United States. Because of Beijing's view that Taiwan is a renegade province of China, Taiwanese presidents have confined themselves in previous U.S. visits to holding private meetings in hotels.

Ma is on his way home after visiting Sao Tome and Principe, Burkina Faso and Honduras -- three of Taiwan's remaining diplomatic allies. The State Department terms such U.S. stopovers "transits" that are "consistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan."

"It shows there's a great deal of confidence between Taipei and Washington that Ma will stay within the ground rules of not making a huge political splash during his transit," said Alan D. Romberg, director of the Stimson Center's East Asia Program.

Despite an influx of immigrants from China in recent decades, Los Angeles Chinatown organizations remain generally supportive of Taiwan. In San Francisco, the Chinatown Consolidated Benevolent Assn. no longer flies the Taiwanese flag and has stopped celebrating Double 10 Day, which commemorates the Republic of China's birth.

Ma is scheduled to arrive at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Assn. on Broadway around 3 p.m. before continuing to the Ma Family Assn. on North Grand Avenue, Chinatown leaders said.

Not all Taiwanese Americans are thrilled. Supporters of Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party, who usually protest when presidents from the opposing Kuomintang visit, said they probably will not bother this time, with Ma in his last term and facing low approval ratings at home.

"He keeps thinking that if he talks it through with China, there will be peaceful unification. This is something most Taiwanese cannot accept," said Jerome Cheng, president of the DPP's U.S. West chapter.

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Twitter: @cindychangLA

cindy.chang@latimes.com

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