Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-03-19 02:55 PM
A group of mostly students entered the premises late Tuesday and withstood three attempts by police to dislodge them. They occupied the main chamber while thousands of their supporters surrounded the area outside.
The protesters demanded the clause-by-clause review of the trade agreement as promised by the government shortly after it was signed last June. On Monday, the ruling Kuomintang used its majority at the Legislative Yuan to declare the review by eight committees over, provoking anger from opposition and social activists alike. The occupiers also wanted an apology from President Ma Ying-jeou, the resignation of Premier Jiang Yi-huah and the withdrawal of police from the Legislative Yuan building.
Lawmakers should first review and pass a law setting up a framework for negotiating accords with China, the protesters said. In the meantime, there should be no top-level cross-straits meetings and no negotiations on new agreements. For the past six years, Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits have signed new agreements twice a year, while the service trade pact is set to be followed by a similar deal about the trade in goods.
Critics, including the students and the opposition, have said the trade accords were unequal and would harm hundreds of small and medium enterprises, destroy jobs, and lead to an expansion of Chinese influence over Taiwan’s economy without addressing the national security threat posed by the communist government in Beijing.
The occupation of the main podium would last 63 hours and only be halted on Friday, the protesters said.
A member of the public reportedly cut his wrist to use his own blood to draw a heart on a pillar in the building. Referring to Ma’s low ratings in the opinion polls, protesters held up a banner in English reading “9% President Ma forced the parliament to pass Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services within 3 seconds.” A number of students took to the higher floors of a legislative building and waved Republic of China flags upside down to signal the country was facing disaster because of the trade accord.
In order to make it more difficult for police to dislodge them from the main assembly hall, they piled up seats and other objects in front of doors. The plaque outside the front entrance of the complex on Chungshan South Road was torn off and put on the floor between Chinese characters reading “China Party” and “The Yuan which sold out Taiwan.”
Three DPP lawmakers continued their hunger strike against the pact Wednesday. Bikhim Hsiao, Wu Ping-jui and Wu Yi-chen said their action would last 70 hours to symbolize the more than 70 percent of public opinion who opposed the services pact.
The Presidential Office voiced support for a statement by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng calling for calm, reason and self-restraint. He said he wanted a peaceful resolution of the confrontation without harm coming to the students. Legislative work was suspended for the day because of the occupation. On Tuesday, Wang had been critical of the KMT’s handling of the issue, saying there had been an agreement on how to deal with the pact but it had not been followed. On June 25, the KMT agreed to a clause-by-clause review and vote by the Legislative Yuan.
The Presidential Office reportedly called in police reinforcements Wednesday to prevent the mass action from expanding to its premises.
The Executive Yuan said it would respect the way the Legislative Yuan handled the protesters. The authority to call in the police lies with the legislative branch. National Police Agency chief Wang Cho-chiun also expressed the hope that protesters would remain rational and find a peaceful way to put across their opinions. He visited an injured police officer being treated at the National Taiwan University Hospital.
The KMT strongly attacked the occupiers and the opposition, accusing the DPP of fomenting illegal behavior. On Tuesday, the opposition party had announced a plan to besiege the Legislature Friday. DPP leaders including chairman Su Tseng-chang, ex-chairman Tsai Ing-wen and ex-premiers Frank Hsieh and Yu Shyi-kun visited the site to express their support, while opposition lawmakers reportedly helped the students. Independent Taipei City mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je addressed the occupiers.
The action also received expressions of sympathy elsewhere, with 300 students at Providence University in Taichung reportedly voicing their opposition to the review process as conducted by lawmakers so far. Chinese democracy activist Wang Dan, who lives and works in Taiwan, asked the public online to listen to the students’ demands and understand why they were so angry.
On Wednesday afternoon, the smaller opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union protested outside the KMT headquarters, where the ruling party was holding its regular weekly Central Standing Committee meeting chaired by Ma. Police were prepared and managed to keep the protesters on the other side of the street, reports said.
A KMT official did not accept a written petition calling for a renegotiation of the trade pact, but promised he would pass on the TSU’s demands to the party leadership.
Despite the protests, Ma reiterated his insistence on the service trade pact being passed by the Legislative Yuan before the end of its current session. He told the CSC that only if the long-delayed agreement was passed, would the international community not doubt Taiwan’s determination, sincerity and credibility. The Ma Administration has long said that if the accord was not accepted, it would impact Taiwan’s chances of signing other Free Trade Accords and of joining economic structures such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.