Central News Agency
2014-03-20 04:21 AM
By late Wednesday, organizers such as the Democratic Front Against Cross-strait Trade in Services Agreement estimated that more than 30,000 people have gathered in support of their cause whereas police estimated 2,250 protesters were inside and outside the legislative chamber, confronting an equal number of police officers.
As of early Thursday, both sides have shown restraint without any major clashes, with professors and scholars giving speeches in what they called "democratic classes" to the gathering crowd.
Lawyer Wellington Koo, who is vying for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) nomination to run for Taipei mayor, told the protesters that if they get arrested, he will organize a legal team to help them from the standpoint of civil disobedience.
Ko Wen-je, an independent physician also running for the Taipei mayoral seat, said he was there just to gain an understanding of the operation of medical service teams, claiming his presence "has nothing to do with politics."
Seven DPP city councilors from Keelung in northern Taiwan, including Chen Chih-cheng, Chang Chin-huang and Hung Sen-yung, visited the civic group protesters, wearing headbands that read "substantive review, relaunch negotiations (over the cross-strait trade service pact)" to show their support of the protesters' cause.
Other DPP heavyweights such as Chairman Su Tseng-chang, former Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, former Premier Yu Shyi-kun, kept appearing there to show their concern about the safety and wellbeing of the protesters.
Tsai called on Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, who just won a court battle to retain his Kuomintang (KMT) membership, to preside over negotiations between the legislative caucuses of ruling and opposition parties that will lead to responsible deliberations on the contents of the trade-in-services pact. Su said President Ma Ying-jeou, who doubles as KMT chairman, and Ma's officials have angered the students first by refusing to honor the parliamentarian process regarding the important cross-strait pact and then going on to accuse the opposition parties of "utilizing" the innocent young people to oppose the deal.
"Such provocations, which effectively despise democracy, are bound to further infuriate the students and the public," Su added.
In spite of the widespread disgruntlement over the trade pact, Ma demanded on Wednesday that the Legislature pass the pact before the current legislative session ends in June. This shows that the president "is not reflecting on himself in the least bit and does not know the crux of the problem," Su said, suggesting that Ma make an apology to quell public anger and help the Legislature get back to work. (By Tai Ya-chen, Lee Ming-tsung and S.C. Chang)