Meeting with students will be open to media: Presidential Office
Poll finds widespread opposition to trade pact
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-03-26 02:54 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Any meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou and the students who have been occupying the Legislative Yuan for over a week will be completely open to the media, the Presidential Office said Wednesday.

Ma on Tuesday invited representatives from the students for unconditional talks at his office, but after phone contacts between the two sides, the protesters reiterated their demands that the Legislature should first pass a framework law to govern negotiations with China. The occupiers worry that without such a law, the Kuomintang majority will again pass last June’s trade-in-services pact with China without the promised review.

Responding to the students’ demand that any meeting should be completely open and preferably take place on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building, presidential spokeswoman Garfie Li promised Wednesday that the location for the encounter would be “public and transparent.” The media would be allowed to cover the entire meeting, she said.

On the likelihood of the talks ever taking place, Li said the Presidential Office was “still making efforts” and waiting for the next response from the students.

The protesters asked Ma, who also serves as chairman of the ruling Kuomintang, to drop any threats of disciplinary action against lawmakers who diverge from the party stance in an eventual vote about the trade pact. Li responded that such measures were in the hands of the KMT legislative caucus, and that it might be too early to discuss the subject yet. The Presidential Office wondered whether the protesters were needlessly looking for obstacles or excuses not to meet with Ma.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, student leader Lin Fei-fan accused the president of interfering with the Legislative Yuan because the latest round of negotiations between KMT and opposition broke down without agreement Tuesday afternoon.

Lin said he needed to observe Ma and wait whether the KMT caucus showed any sincerity in supporting the students’ stance before a decision could be reached to meet the president.

After inviting lawmakers Tuesday to sign their picture at the Legislative Yuan promising support for the protest demands, students Wednesday delivered “promise declarations” to each lawmaker, asking them to confirm they would first pass the framework law for negotiations with China before reviewing the trade accord.

Leaders of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party caucus immediately said all its 40 members would sign the promises. KMT lawmakers said the caucus as a whole first needed to adopt a stance before they would respond.

On the street outside, students invited professors to conduct a “people’s review” of the pact.

Addressing the weekly meeting of the KMT’s Central Standing Committee Wednesday afternoon, Ma insisted the trade pact had not been drawn up in secret out of public view. He said no government proposal would ever be so closely scrutinized as the services accord, with each clause and each phrase being looked at and voted on. Ma also mentioned the 20 public hearings on the subject.

Lin gave a positive reaction to a proposal from top business leaders for a National Affairs Conference, but said that in the meantime, the occupation of the Legislative Yuan would continue. A group of students from Hong Kong visited the assembly Wednesday to express their solidarity with the protesters. They reportedly cautioned Taiwan against following the path taken by Hong Kong in accepting more economic and migration liberalization vis-à-vis China.

According to an opinion poll published by Chinese-language Business Today magazine, 84 percent of the public said the government had not communicated sufficiently about the trade pact, while 76 percent agreed that the accord should be sent back for a more thorough review at the Legislative Yuan.

Almost 65 percent supported the students’ occupation, while almost 80 percent said they had only paid attention to the trade-in-services pact because of the protest movement.

Business Daily said 56.3 percent of the public opposed the signing of the pact with China and only 22.3 percent supported it, with even 60.6 percent of those respondents who claimed to understand its contents speaking out against it.

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