Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-03-21 02:22 PM
After ruling Kuomintang lawmakers prevented a thorough review of last June’s trade-in-services pact with China last Monday, students entered the Legislative Yuan building Tuesday evening and proclaimed they would stay on for 63 hours or until Ma apologized and sent the accord back for a review. They also wanted a moratorium on more talks with China as long as the Legislative Yuan did not approve a law setting a framework for future negotiations.
After 69 hours of occupation, student activist Lin Fei-fan said Friday evening that the president had lost his legitimacy to rule the country and that the protesters would expand their action to organize sit-ins beginning Saturday to besiege KMT party offices. Ma should stop using state violence against the voice of the people, but immediately address the issue of the trade pact, Lin said.
During the evening, fears grew that police would act to remove the protesters, even though key leaders such as Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin promised they would protect the students.
Several police attempts to dislodge them failed Wednesday morning, but since then the authorities have largely stayed away while supporters from all over the country moved up to Taipei.
After the occupation started, Ma insisted the trade deal should be approved by June, while KMT lawmakers accused the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party of misusing the students for political games.
The DPP mobilized an estimated 40,000 people to surround the Legislature Friday. Chairman Su Tseng-chang said he did not mind the criticism that the opposition party was following the students, because both were right to fight for the same cause. Ma should admit he was wrong and apologize to the people, Su said in an address to the party supporters outside the Legislature. He was flanked by his two rivals for the May chairmanship elections, ex-Premier Frank Hsieh and former chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen.
It was not only the students who were writing history, but the president was also doing so by acting alone and reaching into the Legislative Yuan, Tsai said. In addition to giving an apology, Ma should also let go and allow the Legislature to conduct a proper review, she concluded.
After accusations that they behaved like vandals by damaging legislative property, the students removed graffiti from the walls of the legislative buildings, with the exception of the saying by French writer Victor Hugo, “When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.”
The Taipei events were echoed by other demonstrations, with an estimated 5,000 people, many of them students from National Cheng Kung University, turning out in Tainan. Students from Hong Kong and Macau also voiced their opposition against the trade pact, while over the previous days, top entertainers, doctors and nurses, university professors, attorneys and politicians visited the occupiers. The list of guests also included two of China’s most prominent democracy activists, Wang Dan and Wu’er Kaixi, and the uncle of Hung Chung-chiu, the young recruit whose death in the army last summer provoked widespread protests.
Taiwanese negotiators signed the trade pact with China in Shanghai last June 21, but the opposition immediately demanded a thorough review. The KMT majority promised on June 25 that lawmakers would have the right to review and vote on each clause separately, but after a series of public hearings, the review itself never got off the ground. Last week, KMT lawmakers were the ones trying to block progress as the joint committee meeting in charge of the review was chaired by a DPP legislator.
Government officials warned that if the accord was not passed, Taiwan would miss out on other important deals, including membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
The protesters meanwhile have been using the resources of the Internet to spread their message worldwide. One action group posted a short film on web site YouTube under the title “I’m a Taiwanese – Young Generation Guarding Taiwan Democracy,” in which a young woman says how the pact was passed in the deepest secret even though it would affect the livelihoods of millions of Taiwanese.