Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen escorted by 60 Harley Davidson bikes on sensitive stopover in US

SAN FRANCISCO - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was on Saturday (Jan 14) given a high-profile welcome during a stopover in San Francisco, where she was escorted by 60 police officers on Harley Davidson bikes en route a visit to Twitter's headquarters.

The bikes were part of a "super high-level" reception for Ms Tsai's, said Taiwan's semi-official Central News Agency, and came amid tensions between Beijing and US President-elect Donald Trump, who has said he would reconsider the "one China" policy.

The policy maintains the Chinese position that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of China.

Ms Tsai is on a week-long tour of Taiwan's Central America allies, but it is her stopovers in the US - first in Houston, then in San Francisco - which have attracted more attention.

Two Taiwanese lawmakers in Ms Tsai's delegation posted on social media photos and videos of the 60 high-powered bikes opening the way for Ms Tsai, reported Central News Agency on Sunday.

"Houston sent 17 Harley Davidson bikes to open the way for Xiao Ing. When word got to San Francisco, do you know how many bikes they sent? 60!" One of the lawmakers, Mr Yao Wen-chih, wrote on his Facebook account, using a popular nickname for Ms Tsai.

A source present at Ms Tsai's visit to Twitter said the Taiwanese leader met Twitter General Counsel Vijaya Gadde and that CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey was not present, reported Reuters.

She also tweeted from her existing account for the first time in more than two years.

"Had a great visit to @Twitter HQ today. Thank you to @vijaya and team for showing us around!" read her tweet.

Pictures of the visit posted online also showed Ms Tsai posing in front of the famous photo that crashed Twitter - 2014 Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres' "selfie" with top Hollywood celebrities.

Ms Tsai had made a congratulatory call to Mr Trump after his Nov 8 victory, sparking outrage from China, which believes the Taiwanese leader wants to seek formal independence from the mainland.

She did not appear to have met with any representatives of the Trump team during her short US stays. But in Houston last Sunday, she met with Republican US Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Greg Abbott and sparked more ire in Beijing.

More than a hundred people were gathered outside the Hyatt Regency near San Francisco International Airport, some to protest and some to support the president, Reuters reported.

Ms Tsai had a lunch gathering with 800 people from the Taiwanese community before departing for Taiwan in the afternoon.

This article was first published on Jan 15, 2017.
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