Premier Jiang rejects key student demands
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-03-28 03:33 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Premier Jiang Yi-huah on Friday rejected students’ demands to pass a framework law about all trade agreements with China and to withdraw the trade-in-services pact from the Legislative Yuan.

Hundreds of students have been occupying the Legislature since March 18 as a protest against the ruling Kuomintang’s forcing of last June’s cross-straits trade deal without a proper review. The occupation leaders have called for a massive rally outside the Presidential Office Building Sunday afternoon.

At a special news conference Friday morning, Jiang said his government could consider a new law about a four-stage mechanism to supervise trade deals with China, but the passage should not be a higher priority than approval for the service trade pact.

The premier echoed an earlier concession by the KMT to allow the accord to return to the committee level. Last June 25, caucuses at the Legislative Yuan had agreed on a clause-by-clause review and vote on the trade pact. However, on March 17, a joint committee session chaired by KMT lawmaker Chang Ching-chung prematurely ended the review and passed the trade pact on to a full session, which would have meant a simple vote on the whole package.

Jiang also rejected opposition demands to renegotiate the accord with China. Lawmakers should have the right to revise or reject clauses in the pact and send them back to the government for renegotiation with Beijing, critics have said.

The premier said such a move would set a troubled precedent for future international trade talks. Last October, the Legislative Yuan did not ask for a rejection of the service trade pact, but merely asked to expand a series of public hearings to a total of 20, Jiang said. Now that the 20 hearings had taken place, it was time to pass the pact, he added.

The premier said that once the deal had been signed last June 21, Hong Kong had expressed concern. Because of the long delay in passing the agreement, the special region had had the time to obtain similar concessions from China, reducing Taiwan’s advantage, Jiang said.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Tuan Yi-kang described Jiang’s news conference as a declaration of war ahead of Sunday’s mass rally in support of the students. He faulted the premier for insisting the police action against the occupiers at the Executive Yuan was legal and for describing the present conflict about the trade pact as merely a question of poor communication.

As the head of the executive branch, Jiang needed to take the necessary responsibility, Tuan said. The government needed to reflect both on its forcing through of an insufficiently explained trade deal and on its violent action against unarmed students, according to the opposition lawmaker.

Police confirmed Friday that the students had applied for permission to stage a protest on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building from 1 p.m. Student leaders said the event would last indefinitely, but police cautioned it should stop by midnight. Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin said the police would take a tolerant attitude toward protesters. An attempt by students to occupy the Executive Yuan on March 23 was met by water cannons and baton charges the next morning, inciting accusations of police brutality.

As a result, Tainan Mayor William Lai, a key DPP member, said he would not allow police officers from his city to be redeployed up to the capital to handle the demonstrations.

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